Context: Despite the fact that at the beginning of each new year James Thomson burned what he considered his inferior poetry of the previous year, critics consider his early work inferior to that of most poets, and preserved only because of the excellence of such later efforts as The Seasons. After studying theology in Edinburgh, he moved to London where "Winter," the first of his Seasons, was published in 1726, followed by "Summer," and, in 1728, by "Spring," dedicated to Frances, Countess of Hertford. Poetry was not a paying profession, and Thomson spent time in a debtors' prison until friends paid the debt. As his poetry became better known, his financial status improved. Yet he always claimed he was too poor to marry, and died a bachelor at forty-eight, boasting "no line which dying he could wish to blot." Part One of the Seasons, "Spring," describes the effect of that time of the year on everything from inanimate matter and vegetables to man, and contrasts wild, passionate love with the purer and gentler kind. It begins:
Come, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness come;And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,While music wakes around, veil'd in a showerOf shadowing roses, on our plains descend.O HERTFORD, fitted or to shine in courtWith unaffected grace, or walk the plainWith innocence and meditation join'd,In soft assemblage, listen to my Song,Which thy own season paints; where Nature allIs blooming, and benevolent, like thee.And see where surly WINTER passes off,Far to the north, and calls his ruffian Blasts;While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch,Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,The mountains lift their green heads to the sky.