What are some examples of humanity's relationship with the natural world in James Thomson's work "Spring," part of The Seasons?
Humanity's relationship with the natural world from a pastoral perceptive!
James Thomson's The Seasons, of which "Spring," is a part, was one of the most popular poems in eighteenth-century England and is characterized by its baroque (that is, flowery) diction, typical of eighteenth-century poetry, and its focus on the exuberance of nature, not typical of eighteenth-century poetry. Although rooted in neoclassical poetic conventions, the poem looks forward to poetry of the Romantic Period. "Spring," published in 1728, follows life through a single day in Spring, and although nature figures largely, Thomson also discusses the effect of Spring on man.
The opening images of "Spring" address man's relationship to this particular season:
With measured step; and, liberal, throws the grain/Into the faithful bosom of the Ground;/The Harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene./Be gracious. Heaven! for now the laborious Man/Has done his part. . . .
The poem begins with a statement reflecting the dependence of man upon nature and the essential interdependence of man and a season: man does his part by sowing seeds, and it is then nature's job to grow that seed for man's use.
Although most of "Spring" describes and exalts nature--birds, animals, vegetation--Thomson concludes the poem with a long discussion of Spring's direct affect on man:
Ye Flower of human race!--in these green days,/Reviving Sickness lifts her languid head;/Life flows afresh; and young-eyed Health exalts/The whole creation round. (ll. 889-884)
Spring not only has a reviving effect on the natural world but also infuses health and life into the young. More important, perhaps, Spring has the ability to help those who are sick lift the "languid head," that is, illness is not a match for the revivifying powers of nature in Spring.
In a direct address to a good friend, Thomson tells him
. . . turning thence thy view, these graver thoughts/The Muses charm: while, with sure taste refined,/You draw the inspiring breath of ancient Song;/Till nobly rises, emulous, thy own. . . . (ll. 930-34)
Thomson is reminding his good friend George Lyttleton that if he merely emulates the "breath of ancient Song" his own poetry will reflect the beauty and life that Spring creates.
Ultimately, Thomson equate Spring with
Truth, Goodness, Honour, Harmony, and Love,/The richest bounty of indulgent Heaven. . . And consenting Spring/Sheds her own rosy garland on their heads. . . .
Of the four seasons, for Thomson, Spring is the season of both natural and human growth, effecting not only plants and animals but also man and the creative process.