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PRINCIPAL WORKS:—Winter, 1726. Three editions appeared in the same year.- Summer, 1727.— The Four Seasons, 1730. This complete poem was published by subscription, 387 subscribers enrolling their names for a guinea a copy. If without pretension to the pre-eminent genius of the very greatest poems, equally with the Faery Queen and the Paradise Lost it forms an important epoch in the history of English poetry. In the true worship of the beauty of the external world it is far superior to anything up to that time produced. Contrasted with the school of Dryden and Pope, or rather with the feeble crowd of their imitators, it is the language of Nature. The Seasons was the direct forerunner of The Task; of the poetry of Cowper, of Burns, and of Wordsworth.—Sophonisba, a tragedy, 1730, founded upon the tragic history of that unfortunate Carthaginian princess, as given by Livy.Liberty, 1732, with the spirit of which Campbell seems occasionally to have been inspired in The Pleasures of Hope. Neither of the two latter productions, although the Sophonisba obtained great success on the stage at the time, has added much to the fame of the author of The Seasons.— The Castle of Indolence, the most highly finished of his poems. To this production - he brought,' says Campbell, ‘not only the full nature, but the perfect art of a poet. The materials of that exquisite poem are derived originally from Tasso; but he was more immediately indebted for them to the Faery Queen ; and in meeting with the paternal spirit of Spenser, he seems as if he were admitted more intimately to the home of inspiration.' In fact the poet had been unceasingly labouring to perfect himself in his art: in natural genius and enthusiasm he had never been wanting. For sixteen years he had been engaged, more or less, in correcting and improving The Seasons: and the last corrected edition is, in great measure, a new work.
His natural enthusiasm, a genuine inspiration, for all that is charming and beautiful in nature, (what vulgar minds are unable to realise,) forms his chief poetic characteristic. But, above all, his sympathy with suffering in all its forms (see particularly his reflections after the picture of the snow-storm in Winter), not limited to any one race or species, but extended to all innocent sentient life; bis indignation against oppression and injustice to which he gives expression whenever the occasion arises, are what most honourably distinguish him from all his predecessors, and indeed from most of his successors. The one poetic fault of The Seasons is an occasional unsuitableness of diction to the particular subject he is describing. Some of his epithets are unfortunately chosen, are somewhat too grandiose and pompous where a simpler diction would have enhanced the intrinsic beauty of his thoughts and feeling; and it is not a little to be regretted that, in the course of his careful revisions, the poet had not been happily inspired to correct this particular blemish. Simplicity of language, however, was perhaps hardly to be expected in an age of artificiality, in which the grand style was considered of the very essence of true poetry. It was reserved for Goldsmith, and especially Cowper, some time later, to show that the poetic style does not necessarily suffer from being clothed in a simpler dress.
Spite of such superficial fault, Thomson will always deserve one of the first places in the admiration as well as affection of every genuine worshipper of the beautiful and the true in nature and humanity. He is the poet who ought especially to be placed in the hands of the young, of sufficient age and education to profit by his ennobling inspirations. The Castle of Indolence, in the stanza of Spenser, with its delightful Spenserian imagery and pictures of fairy-land, in a different style, can never be read without a feeling of enchantment.
Comparing the different characteristics of Thomson and Cowper, Coleridge expresses his feeling, which must be that of every discriminating reader, that, if the latter is the more correct and idiomatic in diction, the author of The Seasons was the born poet. Cowper's image of nature, says Campbell, is more curiously distinct and familiar: Thomson carries our associations through a wider circuit of speculation and sympathy. His touches cannot be more faithful than Cowper's, but they are more soft and select, and less disturbed by the intrusion of homely objects. Cowper was certainly much indebted to him; and though he elevates his style with more reserve and judgment than his predecessor, yet, in his highest moments, he seems to retain an imitative remembrance of him. It is, he continues, stale to remark the beauties of a poem so universally felt; the truth and general interest with which he carries us through the life of the year; the harmony of succession which he gives to the casual phenomena of nature; his pleasing transition from native to foreign scenery; and the soul of exalted and unfeigned benevolence which accompanies his prospects of the creation. The style of verse of The Seasons has received the praise of Johnson for its thorough originality :- His numbers, his pauses, his diction, are of his own growth, without transcription, without imitation.'
THE VEGETABLE AND ANIMAL DIETS.
Then spring the living herbs, profusely wild,
their tribes :
But who their virtues can declare? who pierce,
* Apart from the pleasing fictions of Golden Ages and States of Innocence, and without venturing to enter on the question whether or no flesh-eating has been productive of so much disease, physical and moral, as has been maintained by the vegetarians, it is, at least, pretty clear from the facts of physiology that man was originally formed to be a frugivorous, and not carnivorous, animal. Some eighteen centuries ago, Plutarch in his essay On Flesh-Eating (Ilepl Tas Lapkopaylas), pointed this out. The Hellenic myth of Prometheus and the stolen fire (for the
And yet the wholesome herb neglected dies; Though with the pure exhilarating soul Of nutriment and health, and vital powers Beyond the search of art, 'tis copious bless d. For, with hot ravin fired, ensanguined man Is now become the lion of the plain, And worse. The wolf, who from the nightly fold Fierce drags the bleating prey, ne'er drunk her milk, Nor wore her warming fleece : nor has the steer, At whose strong chest the deadly tiger hangs, E’er plough'd for him. They, too, are temper'd high, With hunger stung and wild necessity, Nor lodges pity in their shaggy breast. But man, whom nature form'd of milder clay,
ery kind emotion in his heart, ight alone to weep; while from her lap irs ten thousand delicacies, herbs, uits, as numerous as the drops of rain ms that gave them birth : shall he, fair form! vears sweet smiles, and looks erect on heaven, Coop to mingle with the prowling herd, sip his tongue in gore? The beast of prey, -stain'd, deserves to bleed; but you, ye flocks, j i have you done? ye peaceful people, what verit death ? you who have given us milk iscious streams, and lent us your own coat inst the winter's cold? And the plain ox, t harmless, honest, guileless animal, what has he offended ? he, whose toil,
poses of cooking) has been supposed to refer to the period when I first took to carnivorous habits. Chose who wish to see the physiological and philosophic arguments
vegetarianism briefly stated, mily find them eloquently set forth in a te of Shelley's to his Qruccn Mab.
Patient, and ever ready, clothes the land
THE LOVES OF THE BIRDS.
LEND me your song, ye nightingales ! oh pour
When first the soul of love
up the tuneful natio: