The Seasons: Autumn "While Listening Senates Hang Upon Thy Tongue"

James Thomson

"While Listening Senates Hang Upon Thy Tongue"

Context: The completion of "Autumn" permitted publication of all four parts of The Seasons together, in an edition from which many passages were deleted in the second edition of 1744. One critic referred to its contents as "a volume on which reason bestows as many beauties as imagination." Part III of The Seasons, devoted to Autumn, is dedicated to Arthur Onslow, who was speaker of the British House of Commons from 1728 to 1761. After describing the fields and vineyards ready for harvest, Thomson comments on the barbarity of hunting. Then he further described the migrating birds, the fading leaves, and finally the joys of a philosophical life in the country. The Dorians of early Greece were supposed to have invented the choral lyric. Pan, one of their agricultural gods, invented the shepherd's pipe, made of reeds. "Front" is, of course, "forehead."

Crown'd with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn, nodding o'er the yellow plain,
Comes jovial on, the Doric reed once more,
Well pleased, I tune. Whate'er the wintry Frost,
Nitrous, prepared; the various blossom'd Spring
Put in white promise forth; and summer-suns Concocted strong, rush boundless now to view,
Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious theme.
Onslow! the Muse, ambitious of thy name,
To grace, inspire, and dignify her song,
Would from the public voice thy gentle ear
A while engage. Thy noble cares she knows,
The patriotic virtues that distend thy thought,
Spread on thy front, and in thy bosom glow;
While listening senates hang upon thy tongue,
Devolving through the maze of eloquence
A roll of periods, sweeter than her song.