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Featured Poem: Winter, A Poem. By James Thomson

Written by Chris Routledge, 18th February 2008

For some reason the weather seems to to have a strong bearing on the poetry featured here. I have no idea whether this is a preference of my own or a tendency in poetry itself, but today's poem fits the pattern nonetheless. The name of Scottish poet James Thomson (1700-1748) is not well known now, but some of his words most certainly are: "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: / Britons never will be slaves." Beyond writing the original lyric to the famous patriotic song Thomson was a powerful descriptive poet and often wrote about the area around the border between Scotland and England; though he lived the second part of his life in London, Thomson was especially fond of Jedburgh.

Here is an excerpt from his poem Winter, which is part of a long poem called The Seasons. The whole poem can be found at this link. For the last week or so we have been enjoying sharp, frosty nights and bright sunny days and Thomson clearly enjoyed weather like this too. I especially like the lines "This of the wintry Season is the Prime; / Pure are the Days, and lustrous are the Nights":

from Winter
CLEAR Frost succeeds, and thro' the blew Serene,
For Sight too fine, th'Ætherial Nitre flies,
To bake the Glebe, and bind the slip'ry Flood.
This of the wintry Season is the Prime;
Pure are the Days, and lustrous are the Nights,
Brighten'd with starry Worlds, till then unseen.
Mean while, the Orient, darkly red, breathes forth
An Icy Gale, that, in its mid Career,
Arrests the bickering Stream. The nightly Sky,
And all her glowing Constellations pour
Their rigid Influence down: It freezes on
Till Morn, late-rising, o'er the drooping World,
Lifts her pale Eye, unjoyous: then appears
The various Labour of the silent Night,
The pendant Isicle, the Frost-Work fair,
Where thousand Figures rise, the crusted Snow,
Tho' white, made whiter, by the fining North.
On blithsome Frolics bent, the youthful Swains,
While every Work of Man is laid at Rest,
Rush o'er the watry Plains, and, shuddering, view
The fearful Deeps below: or with the Gun,
And faithful Spaniel, range the ravag'd Fields,
And, adding to the Ruins of the Year,
Distress the Feathery, or the Footed Game.


James Thomson, 1726. Here's the link to the whole poem again.

Posted by Chris Routledge

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