These, as they change, Almighty Father, these
Are but the varied God. The rolling year
Is full of thee. Forth in the pleasing Spring
Thy beauty walks, thy tenderness and love.
Wide flush the fields; the softening air is balm;
Echo the mountains round; the forest smiles;
And every sense and every heart is joy.
Then comes thy glory in the Summer months,
With light and heat refulgent. Then thy sun
Shoots full perfection through the swelling year
And oft thy voice in dreadful thunder speaks,
And oft at dawn, deep noon, or falling eve,
By brooks and groves, in hollow-whispering gales.
A yellow-floating pomp, thy bounty shines
In Autumn unconfined. Thrown from thy lap,
Profuse o'er nature, falls the lucid shower
Of beamy fruits; and, in a radiant stream,
Into the stores of sterile Winter pours.
In winter awful thou! with clouds and storms
Around thee thrown--tempest o'er tempest rolled.
Majestic darkness! on the whirlwind's wing
Riding sublime, thou bidst the world adore,
And humblest nature with thy northern blast.
Mysterious round! what skill, what force divine
Deep felt, in these appear! a simple train,
Yet so delightful mixed, with such kind art,
Such beauty and beneficence combined!
Shade unperceived so softening into shade!
And all so forming an harmonious whole,
That, as they still succeed, they ravish still.
* * * * *
Nature attend! Join, every living soul,
Beneath the spacious temple of the sky--
In adoration join; and, ardent, raise
One general song! To him, ye vocal gales,
Breathe soft, whose spirit in your freshness breathes;
Oh! talk of him in solitary glooms,
Where, o'er the rock, the scarcely waving pine
Fills the brown shade with a religious awe;
And ye, whose bolder note is heard afar,
Who shake the astonished world, lift high to heaven
The impetuous song, and say from whom you rage.
His praise, ye brooks, attune,--ye trembling rills,
And let me catch it as I muse along.
Ye headlong torrents, rapid and profound;
Ye softer floods, that lead the humid maze
Along the vale; and thou, majestic main,
A secret world of wonders in thyself,
Sound his stupendous praise, whose greater voice
Or bids you roar, or bids your roarings fall.
Soft roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
In mingled clouds to him whose sun exalts,
Whose breath perfumes you, and whose pencil paints.
Ye forests, bend, ye harvests, wave to him;
Breathe your still song into the reaper's heart,
As home he goes beneath the joyous moon.
* * * * *
Bleat out afresh, ye hills! ye mossy rocks,
Retain the sound; the broad responsive low,
Ye valleys raise; for the great Shepherd reigns,
And his unsuffering kingdom yet will come.
* * * * *
Ye chief, for whom the whole creation smiles,
At once the head, the heart, and tongue of all,
Crown the great hymn! in swarming cities vast,
Assembled men, to the deep organ join
The long-resounding voice, oft breaking clear,
At solemn pauses, through the swelling base;
And, as each mingling flame increases each,
In one united ardour rise to heaven.
* * * * *
Should fate command me to the farthest verge
Of the green earth, to distant barbarous climes,
Rivers unknown to song, where first the sun
Gilds Indian mountains, or his setting beam
Flames on the Atlantic isles, 'tis nought to me,
Since God is ever present, ever felt,
In the void waste as in the city full;
And where he vital breathes there must be joy.
* * * * *
The worship of intellectual power in laws and inventions is the main
delight of the song; not the living presence of creative love, which
never sings its own praises, but spends itself in giving. Still, although
there has passed away a glory from the world of song, although the
fervour of childlike worship has vanished for a season, there are signs
in these verses of a new dawn of devotion. Even the exclusive and
therefore blind worship of science will, when it has turned the coil of
the ascending spiral, result in a new song to "him that made heaven and
earth and the sea and the fountains of waters." But first, for a long
time, the worship of power will go on. There is one sonnet by Kirke
White, eighty-five years younger than Thomson, which is quite pagan in
its mode of glorifying the power of the Deity.
But about the same time when Thomson's Seasons was published, which was
in 1730, the third year of George II., that life which had burned on in
the hidden corners of the church in spite of the worldliness and
sensuality of its rulers, began to show a flame destined to enlarge and
spread until it should have lighted up the mass with an outburst of
Christian faith and hope. I refer to the movement called Methodism, in
the midst of which, at an early stage of its history, arose the directing
energies of John Wesley, a man sent of God to deepen at once and purify
its motive influences. What he and his friends taught, would, I presume,
in its essence, amount mainly to this: that acquiescence in the doctrines
of the church is no fulfilment of duty--or anything, indeed, short of an
obedient recognition of personal relation to God, who has sent every man
the message of present salvation in his Son. A new life began to bud and
blossom from the dry stem of the church. The spirit moved upon the waters
of feeling, and the new undulation broke on the shores of thought in an
outburst of new song. For while John Wesley roused the hearts of the
people to sing, his brother Charles put songs in their mouths.
I do not say that many of these songs possess much literary merit, but
many of them are real lyrics: they have that essential element, song, in
them. The following, however, is a very fine poem. That certain
expressions in it may not seem offensive, it is necessary to keep the
allegory of Jacob and the Angel in full view--even better in view,
perhaps, than the writer does himself.