Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

lights, are all transferred from Summer, where they appeared in the first edition, to Autumn in the last, and are there seen with expanded power, and heightened grace; and in Summer we have the comet in their room.

Here end the material alterations in this splendid poetic Season. The final passages, in all the Seasons, remain as they were originally written-so also the opening ones, except the two first lines in the exordium of Summer, which are beautifully altered—and one word only in that to Winter, “ red evening sky," is well changed to “ grim evening sky."

And thus, loving the employment, have I been fond to evince how sedulously I have pursued the task of comparison, which your letters suggested. That which has been my pleasure, was Johnson's duty as the literary biographer of the great poet of nature. In a few posts, I purpose to send you the result of my scrutiny through the two remaining Seasons,—and remain, &c.

LETTER XIV.

Thos. PARK, Esg.

Lichfield, May 19, 1798. I RESUME, with alacrity, the agreeable theme of my last letter. And now, in the poem Autumn, instead of the strengthened fancy of the bard expanding his descriptions, and exploring a wider range of country, to add new scenery in his finished edition of Summer, we perceive here his matured judgment removing, with happy chisel, the incrustations of obscurity, and brilliantly polishing, by little touches, as it passes through the first 500 lines. In one of them we find the broad epithet gaudy given to Spring in both editions. It would have applied better to Summer-but, perhaps, he took it from Dryden ; yet its sense in that author, where he applies it to Spring, being less direct,-metaphoric, not literal,-is more defensible; he says, “ The spring of life, the bloom of gaudy years.”

In the charming paraphrase of the Scripture story, Boaz and Ruth, for two half lines which had introduced city dames, who had no business there, we are presented with the pretty simile of the myrtle in the desert;

that desert a little landscape among the Appenines, distinctly brought to the eye; and the speech of Palemon closes much more elegantly than in the early copy. The inundation has only one half line altered, and it is finely altered. Except in that one spot, it was not possible to improve it. · The field-sports were originally so admirably described, as not to want either addition or correction; and consequently have received few, and slight ones, in the final revision. To the inebriate evening, which succeeds, the picture of the toping doctor is added. All the pictures in that group are justly and strongly coloured; but the subject is disgusting. We are sorry to see Thomson exchanging the pencils of Poussin, Claude, and Salvator, for those of Teviers and Ostade.

In the primal composition of this Season, philosophy and poetic painting very interestingly combine, where the autumnal fogs commence ;the sources of the inland streams are suggested ;where the birds on their migration are so distinctly presented to the memory and imagination ;where the wild landscapes of Caledonia emerge, and that spirited eulogium on the virtues and talents of her sons is breathed. Along these parts, fine as they originally were, the alterations of the consummate edition in this poem, become more considerable. We perceive the poet to have acquired more accurate ideas of natural history, and the power of imparting them in still more luminous diction. Sixty entire new lines are here added, in which all the mighty mountains of the globe pass in review before us, as the origin of lakes and rivers is conjectured. To make room for these, her royal highness, Princess Amelia, was dislodged in good hour, for she was a most intrusive person where she originally stood.

I wish the poet had also expunged the passage which begins, “ O is there not some patriot,” &c. How vexed we feel to see a curtain suddenly dropt on the scenery of the waning year, that we may attend to the patriotism of introducing the muslin manufacture into Scotland, and of looking better after the herrings. Succeeding to the prospect of the Scotish lakes, rivers, and mountains, and of the heroes who defended them, how unimportant seems the simpering portrait of the Duke of Argyle, with his “ engaging turn” and “ rich tongue,”—but there it was originally, and there has its author decreed it should unalienably remain.

Ah ! how glad we are to escape from the muslinlooms, the herrings, and the duke, into the woods and wilds, since, with such a conductor, the fields are not less interesting for becoming russet, nor the groves for being silent; but we are not long suffered to pursue our walk uninterrupted. We must attend to an ideal personage, perhaps impressive enough to be recompensing ; but, in the last edition, he no sooner withdraws, than, instead of being led back into our sylvan haunts, we are paraded into Stowe-Gardens, and obliged to hear about Pitt's oratory, and Lord Cobham's taste in horticulture.

At length nature and her scenery are given us back, amid the clustering fogs of the autumnal evening, her lunar, ber stellar, and her boreal lights. Suddenly quenching them all, we have the dark night, the misleading and the friendly meteor taken from the poem Summer. Then rises the last autumal day, in all its mild and golden progress ;—the destruction of the waxen citadel beautifully, pathetically exhibited ;eulogium on domestic life in the country, with vivid and interesting pictures of its delights, and with an apostrophe to nature; and thus closes this third Season. From the time we escape from Stowe-Gardens to the conclusion, the early composition remains nearly untouched.

There cannot, I think, be a doubt that these lines in the Autumn suggested one of the finest

an

« ПредишнаНапред »