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ing to decline, has been aptly compared to that period, when the man, mellowed by age, yields the most valuable fruits of experience and wisdom, but daily exhibits increasing fymptoms of decay. The cold, cheerless, and sluggish Winter has almoft without a metaphor been termed the decrepid and hoary old age of the year. Thus the history of the year, pursued through its changing seasons, is that of an individual, whose existence is marked by a progressive course from its origin to its termination. It is thus represented by our poet; this idea preserves an unity and connection through his whole work; and the accurate observer will remark a beautiful chain of circumstances in his description, by which the birth, vigour, decline, and extinction of the vital principle of the year are pictured in the most lively manner.
This order and gradation of the whole runs, as has been already hinted, through each division of the poem. Every season has its incipient, confirmed, and receding itate, of which its historian ought to give diftinct views, arranged according to the succession in which they appear. Each, too, like the prismatic colours, is indistinguishably blended in its origin and termination with that which precedes, and which follows it; and it may be expected from the pencil of
an artist to hit off these mingled shades so as to produce a pleasing and picturesque effect. Our poet has not been inattentive to these circumstances in the conduct of his plan. His Spring begins with a view of the season as yet unconfirmed, and partaking of the roughness of Winter *; and it is not till after several steps in gradual progression, that it breaks forth in all its ornaments, as the favourite of Love and Pleasure. His Autumn, after a rich prospect of its bounties and splendours, gently fades into “ the sere, the
yellow leaf,” and with the lengthened night, the clouded sun; and the rising storm, sinks into the arms of Winter. It is remarkable, that in order to produce something of a similar effect in his SUMMER, a season which, on account of its uniformity of character, does not admit of any strongly-marked gradations, he has comprised the whole of his description within the limits of a single day, pursuing the course of the sun from its rising to its setting. A Summer's day is, in reality, a juft model of the entire season. Its be
* A descriptive piece, in which this very interval of time is represented, with all the accuracy of a naturalist, and vivid colouring of a poet, has lately appeared in a poem of Mr. War. ton's, entitled “ The First of April.”
ginning is moist and temperate; its middle, sultry and parching ; its close, soft and refreshing. By thus exhibiting all the viciffitudes of Summer under one point of view, they are rendered much more striking than could have been done in a series of feebly contrasted and scarcely distinguishable periods.
With this idea of the general plan of the whole work, and of its several parts, we proceed to take a view of the various subjects composing the descriptive series of which it principally consists.
Every grand and beautiful appearance in nature, that distinguishes one portion of the annual circuit from another, is a proper source of materials for the Poet of the Seasons. Of these, some are obvious to the common observer, and require only juftness and elegance of taste for the selection : others discover themselves only to the mind opened and enlarged by science and philofophy. All the knowledge we acquire concerning natural objects by such a train of obfervation and reasoning as merits the appellation of science, is comprehended under the two divisions of Natural Philosophy and Natural History. Both of these may be employed to advantage in descriptive poetry : for although it be true, that poetical compofition, being rather calculated for amusement than
instruction, and addressing itself to the many who feel, rather than to the few who reason, is improperly occupied about the abstruse and argumentative parts of a science; yet, to reject those grand and beautiful ideas which a philosophical view of nature offers to the mind, merely because they are above the comprehenfion of vulgar readers, is furely an unnecessary degradation of this noble art. Still more narrow and unreasonable is that critical precept, which, in conformity to the received notion that fiction is the foul of poetry, obliges the poet to adopt ancient errors in preference to modern truths; and this even where truth has the advantage in point of poetical effect. In fact, modern philofophy is as much superior to the ancient in fublimity as in solidity; and the most vivid imagination cannot paint to itself scenes of grandeur equal to those which cool science and demonstration offer to the enlightened mind. Objects so vaft and magnificent as planets rolling with even pace through their orbits, comets rushing along their devious track, light springing from its unexhaufted source, mighty rivers formed in their subterranean beds, do not require, or even admit, a heightening from the fancy. The most faithful pencil here produces the noblest pictures ; and THOMSON, by strictly
adhering to the character of the Poet of Nature, has treated all these topics with a true sublimity, which a writer of less knowledge and accuracy could never have attained. The strict propriety with which subjects from Astronomy and the other parts of Natural Philosophy are introduced into a poem describing the changes of the Seasons, need not be insisted on, since it is obvious that the primary cause of all these changes is to be fought in principles derived from these sciences. They are the ground-work of the whole; and establish that connected series of cause and effect, upon which all those appearances in nature depend, from whence the descriptive poet draws his materials.
Natural History, in its most extensive fignification, includes
every obfervation relative to the distinctions, resemblances, and changes of all the bodies, both animate and inanimate, which nature offers to us. These observations, however, deserve to be considered as part of a science only when they refer to some general truth, and form a link of that vast chain which connects all created beings in one grand fyftem. It was my attempt, in an Essay lately published *, to
Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry.