"Congenial Horrors, Hail!"
Context: The first long-sustained poem in English devoted primarily to the description of nature and its changing moods, The Seasons broke new ground in several directions. Thomson, a forerunner of the Romantic period, used a number of ideas new at the time–sensuous imagery, fantasy, and a love of nature. He also brought blank verse back into use as a poetic medium, and re-established Milton as a major force in the development of English poetry. He founded the tradition of nature poetry in England. The four parts of The Seasons were published over a period of time, from 1726 to 1730, Winter being the first; after all the parts were issued they were published with the seasons in their natural order, beginning with spring. Winter begins solemnly; Thomson describes the storms, the gloom, the wind, the swelling rivers. But he makes it plain that he enjoys their sublimity to the utmost: "Nature! great parent! whose unceasing hand/ Rolls round the Seasons of the changeful year,/ How mighty, how majestic, are thy works!" Throughout the scenes of tempest, piled one upon the other, one hears the blast; Thomson's descriptive powers almost provide winter in its actuality. Then the calm descends momentarily; life's vanities are considered a moment; and the storms rage again. We have glimpses of wild creatures and beasts of burden suffering from the elements, and of a belated wanderer lost and freezing in the snow. Thomson dwells for a moment on winter famine and the lot of all who suffer; then he introduces his own snug retreat, "where ruddy fire and beaming tapers join/ To cheer the gloom. There studious let me sit,/ And hold high converse with the mighty Dead. . . ." He considers at some length these great thinkers of the past and the joys they bring the reader. Then he returns to the outside world once more, where at long last the iron grip of winter is gradually relaxing and there are signs of spring. In spite of all its rigors, one is left with the certainty that when another year is past, Thomson will welcome winter once again:
See, Winter comes to rule the varied year,Sullen, and sad, with all his rising train;Vapours, and Clouds, and Storms. Be these my theme,These, that exalt the soul to solemn thought,And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms!Congenial horrors, hail! with frequent foot,Pleas'd have I, in my chearful morn of life,When nurs'd by careless solitude I liv'd,And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,Pleas'd have I wander'd thro' your rough domain;Trod the pure virgin-snows, myself as pure;Heard the winds roar, and the big torrent burst;Or seen the deep fermenting tempest brew'dIn the grim evening sky. Thus pass'd the time,Till thro' the lucid chambers of the south,Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smil'd.