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No more mischief and no more play;
But watching by night, and sleeping by day,
Prowling wherever the foe doth lurk-
Very short commons and very sharp work.
And, Kitten, oh! the hail and the thunder!
That's a blackish cloud, but a blacker's under.
Hark! but you'll fall from my knee, I fear,
When I whisper that awful word in your ear-

(The Kitten's heart beat with great pit-pats,
But her whiskers quiver'd, and from their sheath
Flash'd out the sharp, white, pearly teeth.)

The scorn of dogs, but the terror of cats;
The cruellest foes and the fiercest fighters;
The sauciest thieves and the sharpest biters.
But Kitten, I see you've a stoutish heart,
So, courage! and play an honest part;
Use well your paws,

And strengthen your claws,

And sharpen your teeth and stretch your jaws-
Then woe to the tribe of pickers and stealers,
Nibblers, and gnawers, and evil dealers!
But now that you know Life's not precisely
The thing your fancy pictured so nicely,
Off and away! race over the floor,
Out at the window and in at the door;
Roll on the turf and bask in the sun,

Ere night-time cometh, and kittenhood's done.

The reader will have admired the highly-wrought effect of that mysterious whisper, Mice!-startling the ear of kittenhood with dim intimations of an eventful future. The condensed significance of that monosyllable is a masterly hit. But it is nothing to the thrilling revelation which follows it to the awful roll, the ruthless reverberation of that other monosyllable, R-r-r-rats! We warrant, if Mr. Westwood has recited this piece before a select home circle of little ones, that he has been clamorously petitioned (the first sensation over and silence broken) to repeat the rolling r's, without bating a jot of the old emphasis. "Please do the R-r-r-rats over again!" And no wonder.





THERE is, perhaps, no English poet of Thomson's kind of rank and reputation, about whose merits and claims to such distinction there is so little dispute. Wordsworth,† indeed, essayed to show that the general admiration expressed for the bard of the Seasons could only at the best be "blind wonderment," and to account for his popularity by, partly, the mere title of his chief poem, which seemed to "bring it home to the prepared sympathies of every one,"-partly, the use of just such a "vicious style" and just such "false ornaments," as would be most likely to strike the undiscerning,-and partly, the lavish introduction of "sentimental common-places," brought forward with an imposing air of novelty, and with palpable success, proved by the fact that in any well-used copy of "The Seasons," the book generally opens of itself with the Rhapsody on Love, or with one of the episodes, Damon and Musidora, or Palemon and Lavinia. But Wordsworth's own disciples have been backward to repeat his strictures; some, on the contrary, have been forward to confute them -Wilson, for instance, who kindles into enthusiasm as he intones in that poetical-prose of his (medley of the "raal fine" and "unco' coarse"), the praises of his illustrious countryman, and exults in the wide acceptance of the Seasons, and their cordial enjoyment, by all orders and degrees of men amongst us-telling how he had seen the book himself in the shepherd's shieling, and in the woodsman's bower-"small, yellow-leaved, tattered, mean, miserable, calf-skin bound, smoked, stinking copies," yet pored over by those "humble dwellers, by the winter-ingle or on the summer-brae, perhaps with as enlightened, certainly with as imaginationovermastering a delight, as ever enchained the spirits of the high-born and highly-taught to their splendid copies," of ne plus ultra pretensions as to paper and print, breadth of margin and pomp of illustration, binding the most superb and tooling the most exquisite. We do not quarrel over Thomson as we do over other poets beside or near whom he takes his stand. His popularity is less questionable than almost any other bard's, enrolled high on the list of British classics. It is more a true thing, an actual verity, real and practical; not merely a traditional pretence, not merely a hearsay renown, courteous and conventional. Possibly the tide has turned now, or is at the turning point; but for one clear century Thomson has enjoyed a degree of fame which, in quantity and quality, in extent and in intensity, deserves to be called "true fame," as Coleridge did call it, when he found a tattered copy of the "Seasons" lying on the window-sill of a little rustic ale-house. Possibly the next and succeeding generations may have less implicit faith in the accuracy and unbookish freshness of Thomson's descriptions of Nature, and make fewer calls upon

* Poetical Works of James Thomson. Edited by Robert Bell. 2 vols. (An

notated Edition of the English Poets.) London: John W. Parker and Son. 1855. "Essay, supplementary to the Preface," &c.

"Winter Rhapsody. Fytte First (1830)."

them in their Anthologies, and Elegant Extracts, and Modern Speakers; but for a round hundred years at least he has been honoured with "true fame”—read (which is more than some greater bards may boast), marked (a new access of superiority), learnt (by heart, and with heart, as an outof-school pleasure as well as an in-school task), and inwardly digested (with more or less ease in the process, and benefit in the result, according to the eu or dys-peptic powers of the agent). And the majority of general readers will probably scout our base insinuation that the tide, which has borne him so buoyantly, so royally, hitherto, has shown any the slightest symptom of turning, much less has already turned-and will deny that so deep and broad a stream, whose rolling waters wend on to immortality, can be subject to the check of tidal laws, or suffer a seachange.

The truth and freshness of Thomson's transcripts from Nature drew no mean part of their effect upon the age, from the contrast they presented to the untruth and second-hand staleness of that age's poetry of description. They had, indeed, an absolute beauty and value of their own; but their relative beauty and value, as compared with contemporary verse of a similar design, heightened as well it might the fervour of the welcome they received. Now that the same contrast between him and other descriptive poets no longer exists, now that he is not alone in his glory, now that his readers are readers also of Cowper, of Wordsworth, of Tennyson, -the relative value of his verse becomes a vanishing quantity, and, for his passport to immortality, or his claim to another century's lease of "true fame," it is to its absolute value, to its intrinsic vitality (Conv 'ev eavr), that regard must now be paid. Few but will recognise in his descriptions an absolute beauty, ever fresh and ever fair-and hence may be predicated for them a lease of perpetuity-such perpetuity as mortals may predicate at all; his portraiture of Nature is a thing of beauty, and that, says another poet, is a joy for ever. How much this absolute beauty was seemingly magnified by relative "co-efficients," and to what extent the reputation of the "Seasons" for descriptive fidelity may be impaired, and their "glorious summer" be overshadowed by advent glooms of a "winter of discontent," it is for time to test; and time is testing it accordingly.

In speaking of Thomson's truthfulness as a descriptive poet, we do not here allude to the minor details of his poem, illustrative of zoological and vegetable life. Of these illustrations, which are open to the matterof-fact criticism of science, some are demonstrably inaccurate, the most are admirably correct. His namesake, Dr. A. T. Thomson, has furnished many interesting observations on this head; and Mr. Bell, in his careful edition of the poet, draws liberally on the Doctor's storehouse, and confronts Thomson the man of imagination and song with Thomson the man of natural history and fact. Now and then the minstrel is a little beside the mark, in his ornithological and kindred researches ; but, as a rule, his eye is a seeing eye, and peers inquiringly into the privacies of animal life, as well as rolls in a fine frenzy in vision of whirlwind and storm. If he is in error when he refers to early Spring the "clammy mildew" which does not appear till Autumn, or when he ranks the woodlark among those birds that sing in copses, whereas it sings on the

wing, or when, in common with so many others, he makes the sunflower shut up her yellow leaves in sadness when sets her god, the sun, and, when he warm returns, "point her enamoured bosom to his ray," whereas prosy science, or rather plain observation, tells us that if we examine a bed of sunflowers at any period of the day we shall find them looking in every direction, and only by poetic fiction, and to an Irish melody, turning on their god when he sets the same look that they turned when he rose, or when he derives pestilence from a living cloud of insects, uprising from the hoary fen in putrid streams,- -or when he sends the swallow to bed and sleep for the winter, whereas that judicious bird, at once epicurean in taste and eclectic in philosophy, eschews such an idea (much more such a fact) as Winter altogether, and so arranges its periodical flittings as to renew in the south what was failing it in the north,-if in a few instances of this trivial sort, Thomson is open to the demurrers of his learned friends, in how many others does he extort from them a homage of admiration for the minuteness of his observance, and the accuracy of his details. As where he sketches out the physiology of the vegetable tribes, that, wrapt in a filmy net, and clad with leaves, draw the live ether and imbibe the dew-each plant in the twining mass of tubes a thing "attractive," that sucks, and swells the juicy tide-the vernal sun awakening the torpid sap from its wintry root-asylum, till it mounts in lively fermentation, and spreads "all this innumerous-coloured scene of things;"-or where he pictures the nightingale in his exemplary capacity as a prospective paterfamilias, singing away like-like-whom or what but himself?-by day and night, while his mistress gives ear to his ditty and eke attends to the hatching;-or where he notes the whitewinged plover wheeling her sounding flight, around the head of wandering swain, and skimming in long excursion the level lawn, to tempt him from her nest; or, with like pious fraud, the wild-duck fluttering over the rough moss, and the heath-hen over the trackless waste, to delude and utterly confuse the hot-pursuing spaniel; or where he reports the august congress of storks, and their protracted debates ere the motion is carried for their long vacation-how, having designed their route, chosen their leaders, adjusted their tribes, and cleaned their vigorous wings, they wheel round and round (like crafty logicians) "in many a circle," and (like us magazine scribblers) in "many a short essay," until "in congregation full the figured flight ascends, and, riding high the aërial billows, mixes with the clouds;"-or, once again, where he registers the indications of a coming storm, from the movements of feathered fowl, "the plumy race, the tenants of the sky,"—the clamorous rooks, retiring in blackening hordes from the downs, thick-urging their weary flight to the grove's closing shelter; and the cormorant on high that wheels from the deep and screams along the land, and the heron soaring aloft with loud shriek, and the circling sea-fowl that cleave with wild wing the flaky clouds.

These graphic felicities notwithstanding, it is by here and there an exacting critic contended, that, after all, Thomson's descriptions of Nature are sometimes not quite so fresh and original, but considerably more bookish and conventional, than the bulk of his admirers ever have suspected or ever will allow.

That, indeed, he loved the face of Nature, and studied it at times with a lover's intelligence-(and we know that

Love adds a precious seeing to the eye),

is not by the most cross-grained to be gainsaid. His boyish verses "On a Country Life," Mr. Bell commends as fresh and real, and as bringing before us the features of the country without gloss or affectation. "Dismissing the ideal shepherds and shepherdesses who formerly trailed their silks, like the ladies in the portraits of the Restoration, over imaginary plains, and rejecting altogether the machinery of the heathen mythology, Thomson addressed himself directly to Nature, and transferred the landscape to his canvas with truthfulness and simplicity."* Mrs. Southey has recorded her grateful sense of the "fresh and real" interest in Nature, excited within her by early commerce with the "Seasons"

A sensibility to Nature's charms

That seems its living spirit to infuse
(A breathing soul) in things inanimate;
To hold communion with the stirring air,
The breath of flowers, the ever shifting clouds,
The rustling leaves, the music of the stream
... But best and noblest privilege! to feel
Pervading Nature's all-harmonious whole,

The Great Creator's Presence in his works.†

"Thomson," says M. Villemain, "has not the grandeur and precision of antiquity, but his heart overflows at the sight of the country. He abounds in true images-in simple emotions. He possesses that poetry of the domestic hearth, in which the English have always excelled, and he has blended it with all the beauties of Nature, which for him are only shadows of the Creator's hand." His images are true when they are manifestly the fruit of his own observations of the varied year, his own out-door studies of the seasons as they roll; as when, in his cheerful morn of life, as he tells us, he wandered not unpleased through even grim Winter's rough domain, among the hills within range of his father's parish, where he trod the pure virgin snows, and heard the winds roar and the big torrents burst, and saw the deep fermenting tempest gather its forces in the gloaming, soon to come travelling in the greatness of its strength, welcome only to such as could say

welcome, kindred glooms!

Congenial horrors hail!

* Bell's Thomson, i. 46.

The Birthday, &c. By Caroline Bowles. 1836.

M. Villemain is here comparing Thomson with that once favourite and very French fribbler, St. Lambert, at whose expense he has the good taste to exalt the British bard, though British, and more fat than bard beseems. Whence the difference, he asks, between the Seasons à la Lambert and the Seasons à la Thomson? and in part-explanation answers: "It does not arise solely from the inequality of their talents [though we, who are British, would lay tolerable stress upon that, when in the one scale lies a Thomson, and in the other a St. Lambert]. But the English poet, from the midst of the luxury and the philosophy of the capital, seeks the country,... and though he dedicates his work to a great lady, his feelings are with the people-a people rich and proud of a free fatherland. Like them, he loves its pastures, its forests, and its fields. Thence springs his glowing manner; thence, under a gloomy sky, and in a period of cold philosophy, is his poetry so full of freshness and colour."-Cours de Littérature française.

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