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a most agreeable exertion to the human powers, and have much to plead in their favour as a necessary part of the great plan of Nature. Indeed, she marks her intention with sufficient precision, by refusing to grant any longer those friendly shades which had grown for the protection of the infant offspring. The grove loses its honours ; but before they are entirely tarnished, an adventitious beauty, arising from that gradual decay which loosens the withering leaf, gilds the autumnal landscape with a temporary splendor, superior to the verdure of Spring, or the luxuriance of Summer. The infinitely various and ever-changing hues of the leaves at this season, melting into every soft gradation of tint and shade, have long engaged the imitation of the painter, and are equally happy ornaments in the description of the poet.
These unvarying symptoms of approaching Winter now warn several of the winged tribes to prepare for their aërial voyage to those happy climates of perpetual summer, where no deficiency of food or shelter can ever distress them; and about the same time other fowls of hardier constitution, which are contented with escaping the iron winters of the arctic regions, arrive to supply the vacancy.
Thus the striking scenes afforded by that wonderful part of the economy of nature, the migration of birds, present themselves at this season to the poet. The thickening fogs, the heavy rains, the swoln rivers, while they deform this sinking period of the year, add new subjects to the pleasing variety which reigns throughout its whole course, and which justifies the poet's character of it, as the season when the Muse“ best exerts her voice."
Winter, directly opposite as it is in other respects to Summer, yet resembles it in this, that it is a Season in which Nature is employed rather in secretly preparing for the mighty changes
which it successively brings to light, than in the actual exhibition of them. It is therefore a period equally barren of events; and has still less of animation than Summer, inasmuch as lethargie insensibility is a state more distant from vital energy than the languor of indolent repose. From the fall of the leaf, and withering of the herb, an unvarying death-like torpor oppresses almost the whole vegetable creation, and a considerable part of the animal, during this entire portion of the year. The whole insect race, which filled every part of the Summer landscape with life and motion, are now either buried in profound sleep, or actually no longer exist, except in the unformed rudiments of a future progeny. Many of the birds and quadrupeds are retired to concealments, from which not even the calls of hunger can force them; and the rest, intent only on the preservation of a joyless being, have ceased to exert those powers of pleasing, which, at other seasons, so much contribute to their mutual happiness, as well as to the amusement of their human sovereign. Their social connexions, however, are improved by their wants. In order the better to procure their scanty subsistence, and resist the inclemencies of the sky, they are taught by instinct to assemble in flocks; and this provision has the secondary effect of gratifying the spectator with something of novelty and action even in the dreariness of a wintry prospect. ,
But it is in the extraordinary changes and agitations which the elements and the surrounding atmosphere undergo during this season, that the poet of nature must principally look for relief from the gloomy uniformity reigning through other parts of the creation. Here scenes are presented to his view, which, were they less frequent, must strike with wonder and admiration the most incurious spectator. The effects of cold are more sudden, and in many instances more extraordinary:
and unexpected, than those of heat. He who has beheld the vegetable productions of even a northern Summer, will not be greatly amazed at the richer, and more luxuriant, but still resembling, growths of the tropics. But one, who has always been accustomed to view water in a liquid and colourless state, cannot form the least conception of the same element as hardened into an extensive plain of solid crystal, or covering the ground with a robe of the purest white. The highest possible degree of astonishment must therefore attend the first view of these phenomena ; and as in our temperate climate but a small portion of the year affords these spectacles, we find that, even here, they have novelty enough to excite emotions of agreeable surprise. But it is not to novelty alone that they owe their charms. Their intrinsic beauty is, perhaps, individually superior to that of the gayest objects presented by the other seasons. Where is the elegance and brilliancy that can compare with that which decorates every tree or bush on the clear morning succeeding a night of hoar frost ? or what is the lustre that would not appear dull and tarnished in competition with a field of snow just glazed over with frost ? By the vivid description of such objects as these, contrasted with the savage sublimity of storms and tempests, our poet has been able to produce a set of winter landscapes, as engaging to the fancy as the apparently happier scenes of genial warmth and verdure.
But he has not trusted entirely to these resources for combating the natural sterility of Winter. Repeating the pleasing artifice of his SUMMER, he has called in foreign aid, and has heightened the scenery with grandeur and horror not our own. The famished troops of wolves pouring from the Alps ; the mountains of snow rolling down the precipices of the same
ns; the dreary plains over which the Laplander urges
his rein-deer; the wonders of the icy sea, the volcanoes “ flaming through a waste of snow;" are objects judiciously selected from all that Nature presents most singular and striking in the various domains of boreal cold and wintry desolation. ,
Thus have we attempted to give a general view of those materials which constitute the ground-work of a poem on the Seasons; which are essential to its very nature, and on the proper arrangement of which its regularity and connexion depend. The extent of knowledge, as well as the powers of description, which THOMSON has exhibited in this part of his work, is, on the whole, truly admirable; and though, with the present advanced taste for accurate observation in Natural History, some improvements might be suggested, yet he certainly remains unrivalled in the list of descriptive poets.
But the rural landscape is not solely made up of land, and water, and trees, and birds, and beasts; man is a distinguished figure in it; his multiplied occupations and concerns introduce themselves into every part of it; he intermixes even in the wildest and rudest scenes, and throws a life and interest upon every surrounding object. Manners and character therefore constitute a part even of a descriptive poem; and in a plan so extensive as the history of the year, they must enter under various forms and upon numerous occasions.
The most obvious and appropriated use of human figures in pictures of the Seasons, is the introduction of them to assist in marking out the succession of annual changes by their various labours and amusements. - In common with other animals, man is directed in the diversified employment of earning a toilsome subsistence by an attention to the vicissi
tudes of the seasons; and all his diversions in the simple state of rustic society are also regulated by the same circumstance. Thus a series of moving figures enlivens the landscape, and contributes to stamp on each scene its peculiar character. The shepherd, the husbandman, the hunter, appear in their turns; and may be considered as natural concomitants of that portion of the yearly round which prompts their several occupations.
But it is not only the bodily pursuits of man which are affected by these changes; the sensations and affections of his mind are almost equally under their influence : and the result of the whole, as forming the enamoured yotary of Nature to a peculiar cast of character and manners, is not less conspicuous. Thus the poet of the Seasons is at liberty, without deviating from his plan, to descant on the varieties of moral constitution, and the powers which external causes are found to possess over the temper of the soul. He may draw pictures of the pastoral life in all its genuine simplicity; and, assuming the tone of a moral instructor, may contrast the peace and felicity of innocent retirement with the turbulent agitations of ambition and avarice.
The various incidents too, upon which the simple tale of rural events is founded, are very much modelled by the difference of seasons. The catastrophes of Winter differ from those of Summer; the sports of Spring from those of Autumn. Thus, little history pieces and adventures, whether pathetic or amusing, will suggest themselves to the Poet; which, when properly adapted to the scenery and circumstances, may very happily coincide with the main design of the composition. .
The bare enumeration of these several occasions of intro