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The subject proposed. Inscribed to the Countess of HERTFORD. The Season
is described as it affects the various parts of Nature, ascending from the lower to the higher; with digressions arising from the subject. Its influence on inanimate Matter, on Vegetables, on brute Animals, and last on Man. Concluding with a dissuasive from the wild and irregular passion va of Love, opposed to that of a pure and happy kind.
Come, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness, come;
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
O HERTFORD, fitted or to shine in courts
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
With innocence and meditation join'd
In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Which thy own Season paints ; when Nature all
Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.
And see where surly Winter passes off,
Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts :
His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
The shatter'd forest, and the ravag'd vale ;
While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch,
Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
The mountains lift their green heads to the sky.
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm'd,
And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets
Deform the day delightless : so that scarce
The bittern knows his time, with bill engulf'd
To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore
The plovers when to scatter o’er the heath,
And sing their wild notes to the listening waste.
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous sun,
And the bright Bull receives him. Then no more
Th'expansive atmosphere is cramp'd with cold ;
But, full of life and vivifying soul,
Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads them thin, 30
Fleecy and white, o'er all-surrounding heaven.
Forth fly the tepid airs; and unconfin'd, Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays. Joyous, th' impatient husbandman perceives Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers Drives from their stalls, to where the well-us'd plough Lies in the furrow, loosen'd from the frost. There, unrefusing, to the harness'd yoke They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,, Cheer'd by the simple song and soaring lark. 40 Meanwhile incumbent o'er the shining share The master leans, removes th’ obstructing clay, Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the glebe.
White through the neighb’ring fields the sower stalks, With measur'd step ; and liberal throws the grain Into the faithful bosom of the ground : The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene.
Be gracious, Heaven ! for now laborious Man Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow! Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend ! 50 And temper all, thou world-reviving sun, Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear:
Such themes as these the rural Maro sung
To wide imperial Rome, in the full height
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refin'd.
In ancient times, the sacred plough employ'd
The kings, and awful fathers of mankind :
And some, with whom compar'd your insect-tribes
Are but the beings of a summer's day,
Have held the scale of empire, ruld the storm
Of mighty war; then, with victorious hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seiz'd
The plough, and greatly independent scorn'd
All the vile stores Corruption can bestow.
• Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough ;
And o'er your hills, and long withdrawing vales,
Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun,
Luxuriant and unbounded : as the Sea,
Far through his azure turbulent domain,
Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores
Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports ;
So with superior boon may your rich soil,
Exuberant, Nature's better blessings pour
O'er every land, the naked nations clothe,
And be th' exhaustless granary of a world !
Nor only through the lenient air this change,
Delicious, breathes : the penetrative Sun,
His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Of vegetation, sets the steaming Power
At large, to wander o'er the verdant earth,
In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay Green!
Thou smiling Nature's universal robe !
United light and shade! where the sight dwells
With growing strength, and ever-new delight.
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill,
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs,
88 And swells, and deepens, to the cherish'd eye. The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees, Till the whole leafy forest stands display'd In full luxuriance to the sighing gales; Where the deer rustle through the twining brake, And the birds sing conceald. At once array'd In all the colours of the flushing year, By Nature's swift and secret working hand, The garden glows, and fills the liberal air With lavish fragrance ; while the promis'd fruit Lies yet a little embryo, unperceiv'd, Within its crimson folds. Now from the town Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps, Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields, Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze Of sweet-briar hedges I pursue my walk; Or taste the smell of dairy ; or ascend Some eminence, AUGUSTA," in thy plains, And see the country, far diffus'd around, One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower 110 Of mingled blossoms ; where the raptur'd eye Hurries from joy to joy, and, hid beneath The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies :
If, brush'd from Russian wilds, a cutting gale Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings The clammy mildew; or, dry-blowing, breathe Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast The full-blown Spring through all her foliage shrinks, Joyless and dead, a wide-dejected waste. For oft, engender'd by the hazy north,
1 Augusta :' ancient name of London.
Myriads on myriads, insect armies waft
Keen in the poison'd breeze; and wasteful eat,
Through buds and bark, into the blacken'd core,
Their eager way. A feeble race! yet oft
The sacred sons of vengeance ; on whose course
Corrosive famine waits, and kills the year.
To check this plague, the skilful farmer chaff
And blazing straw before his orchard burns ;
Till, all involv'd in smoke, the latent foe
From every cranny suffocated falls :
Or scatters o'er the blooms the pungent dust
Of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe :
Or, when th' envenom'd leaf begins to curl,
With sprinkled water drowns them in their nest;
Nor, while they pick them up with busy bill,
The little trooping birds unwisely scares.
Be patient, swains; these cruel-seeming winds
Blow not in vain. Far hence they keep repress'd
Those deep'ning clouds on clouds, surcharg'd with rain,
That o'er the vast Atlantic hither borne, : 140
In endless train, would quench the Summer blaze,
And, cheerless, drown the crude unripen'd year.
The North-east spends his rage, and now shut up
Within his iron cave, th' effusive South
Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaven
Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Scarce staining ether ; but by fast degrees,
In heaps on heaps the doubling vapour sails
Along the loaded sky, and mingling deep
Sits on th’ horizon round a settled gloom :
Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
Oppressing life ; but lovely, gentle, kind,
And full of every hope and every joy,