England's Antiphon

Home - George MacDonald - England's Antiphon

Prev | Next | Contents


In the poems of James Thomson, we find two hymns to the God of Creation--one in blank verse, the other in stanzas. They are of the kind which from him we should look for. The one in blank verse, which is as an epilogue to his great poem, The Seasons, I prefer.

We owe much to Thomson. Born (in Scotland) in the year 1700, he is the leading priest in a solemn procession to find God--not in the laws by which he has ordered his creation, but in the beauty which is the outcome of those laws. I do not say there is much of the relation of man to nature in his writing; but thitherward it tends. He is true about the outsides of God; and in Thomson we begin to feel that the revelation of God as meaning and therefore being the loveliness of nature, is about to be recognized. I do not say--to change my simile--that he is the first visible root in our literature whence we can follow the outburst of the flowers and foliage of our delight in nature: I could show a hundred fibres leading from the depths of our old literature up to the great root. Nor is it surprising that, with his age about him, he too should be found tending to magnify, not God's Word, but his works, above all his name: we have beauty for loveliness; beneficence for tenderness. I have wondered whether one great part of Napoleon's mission was not to wake people from this idolatry of the power of God to the adoration of his love.

The Hymn holds a kind of middle place between the Morning Hymn in the 5th Book of the Paradise Lost and the Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni. It would be interesting and instructive to compare the three; but we have not time. Thomson has been influenced by Milton, and Coleridge by both. We have delight in Milton; art in Thomson; heart, including both, in Coleridge.

Prev | Next | Contents