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ducing draughts of human life and manners, will be sufficient to call to mind the admirable use which THOMSON throughout his whole poem has made of them. He, in fact, never appears more truly inspired with his subject, than when giving birth to those sentiments of tenderness and beneficence, which seem to have occupied his whole heart. An universal benevolence, extending to every part of the animal creation, manifests itself in almost every scene he draws; and the rural character, as delineated in his feelings, contains all the softness, purity, and simplicity that are feigned of the golden age. Yet excellent as the moral and sentimental part of his work must appear to every congenial mind, it is, perhaps, that in which he may the most easily be rivalled. A refined and feeling heart may derive from its own proper sources a store of corresponding sentiment, which will naturally clothe itself in the form of expression best suited to the occasion. Nor does the invention of those simple incidents which are most adapted to excite the sympathetic emotions, require any great stretch of fancy. The nearer they approach to common life, the more certainly will they produce their effect. Wonder and surprise are affections of so different a kind, and so distract the attention, that they never fail to diminish the force of the pathetic. On these accounts, writers much inferior in respect to the powers of description and imagery, have equalled our poet in elegant and benevolent sentiment, and perhaps excelled him in interesting narration. Of these, it will be sufficient to mention the ingenious author of a French poem on the Seasons; who, though a mere copyist in the descriptive parts, has made many pleasing additions to the manners and incidents proper for such a composition. į
But there is a strain of sentiment of a higher and more digressive nature, with which THOMSON has occupied a con
siderable portion of his poem. ' The fundamental principles of moral philosophy, ideas concerning the origin and progress of government and civilization, historical sketches, and reviews of the characters most famous in ancient and modern history, are interspersed through the various parts of the Seasons. The manly, liberal, and enlightened spirit which this writer breathes in all his works, must ever endear him to the friends of truth and virtue; and, in particular, his genuine patriotism and zeal in the cause of liberty will render his writings always estimable to the British reader. But, just and important as his thoughts on these topics may be, there may remain a doubt in the breast of the critic, whether their introduction in a piece like this do not, in some instances, break in upon that unity of character which every work of art should support. We have seen, from the general plan and tenor of the poem, that it is professedly of the rural cast. The objects it is chiefly conversant with are those presented by the hand of Nature, not the products of human art; and when man himself is introduced as a part of the groupe, it would seem that, in conformity to the rest, he ought to be represented in such a state only, as the simplest forms of society, and most unconstrained situations in it, exhibit. Courts and cities, camps and senates, do not well accord with sylvan scenery. From the principle of congruity, therefore, a critic might be induced to reject some of these digressive ornaments, though intrinsically beautiful, and doubtless contributing to the ele"vation and variety of the piece. His judgment in this respect would be a good deal influenced by the manner of their introduction. · In some instances this is so easy and natural, that the mind is scarcely sensible of the deviation; in others it is more abrupt and unartful. As examples of both, we may refer to the passages in which various characters from English, and from Grecian and Roman history, are displayed. The
former, by a happy gradation, is introduced at the close of a delightful piece, containing the praises of Britain ; which is itself a kind of digression, though a very apt and seasonable one. The latter has no other connexion with the part at which it is inserted, than the very forced and distant one, that as reading may be reckoned among the amusements appropriated to Winter, such subjects as these will naturally offer themselves to the studious mind.
There is another source of sentiment to the Poet of the SEASONS, which, while it is superior to the last in real elevation, is also strictly connected with the nature of his work. The genuine philosopher, while he surveys the grand and beautiful objects every where surrounding him, will be prompted to list bis eye to the great cause of all these wonders ;-the planner and architect of this mighty fabric, every minute part of which so much awakens his curiosity and admiration. The laws by which this Being acts, the ends which he seems to have pursued, must excite his humble researches ; and in proportion as he discovers infinite power in the means, directed by infinite goodness in the intention, his soul must be wrapt in astonishment, and expanded with gratitude. The economy of nature will, to such an observer, be the perfect scheme of an all-wise and beneficent mind; and every part of the wide creation will appear to proclaim the praise of its great Author. Thus a new connexion will manifest itself between the several parts of the universe ; and a new order and design will be traced through the progress of its various Tevolutions.
THOMSON'S SEASONS is as eminently a religious, as it is a descriptive poem. Thoroughly impressed with sentiments of veneration for the Author of that assemblage of order and beauty, which it was his province to paint, he takes every proper occasion to excite similar emotions in the breasts of his readers. Entirely free from the gloom of superstition and the narrowness of bigotry, he every where represents the Deity as the kind and beneficent parent of all his works, always watchful over their best interests, and from seeming evil still educing the greatest possible good to all his creatures. In every appearance of nature he beholds the operation of a divine band; and regards, according to his own emphatical pbrase, each change throughout the revolving year as but the “ varied God.” This spirit, which breaks forth at intervals in each division of his poem, shines full and concentred in that noble hymn which crowns the work. This piece, the sublimest production of its kind since the days of Milton, should be considered as the winding up of all the variety of matter and design contained in the preceding parts; and thus is not only admirable as a separate composition, but is contrived with masterly skill to strengthen the unity and connexion of the great wbobe.
Thus is planned and constructed a Poem, which, founded as it is upon the unfading beauties of Nature, will live as long as the language in which it is written shall be read. If the perusal of it be in any respect rendered more interesting or instructive by this imperfect Essay, the purpose of the writer will be fully answered.