James Thomson (poet)

Scottish writer (1700–1748)

James Thomson (September 11, 1700August 27, 1748) was a Scottish poet and playwright.

I know no subject more elevating, more amazing, more ready to the poetical enthusiasm, the philosophical reflection, and the moral sentiment than the works of nature. Where can we meet such variety, such beauty, such magnificence?
See also James Thomson (B.V.) (1834–1882).


  • Forever, Fortune, wilt thou prove
    An unrelenting foe to love,
    And, when we meet a mutual heart,
    Come in between and bid us part?
    • To Fortune; song reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Whoe'er amidst the sons
    Of reason, valour, liberty, and virtue
    Displays distinguish'd merit, is a noble
    Of Nature's own creating.
    • Coriolanus, Act iii, scene 3; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • O Sophonisba! Sophonisba, O!
    • Sophonisba, Act iii, scene 2; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). The line was altered after the second edition to "O Sophonisba! I am wholly thine".
  • When Britain first, at Heaven's command,
    Arose from out the azure main,
    This was the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sung this strain:
    'Rule, Britannia, rule the waves;
    Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.'
    • Alfred, Act II, sc. v (1740).

Hymn (1730)

  • These as they change, Almighty Father! these
    Are but the varied God. The rolling year
    Is full of Thee.
    • line 1.
  • Shade, unperceiv'd, so softening into shade.
    • line 25.
  • From seeming evil still educing good.
    • line 114.
  • Come then, expressive silence, muse His praise.
    • line 118.

The Seasons (1726-1730)

  • I know no subject more elevating, more amazing, more ready to the poetical enthusiasm, the philosophical reflection, and the moral sentiment than the works of nature. Where can we meet such variety, such beauty, such magnificence?
    • Preface

Winter (1726)

  • See, Winter comes to rule the varied year,
    Sullen and sad.
    • l. 1.
  • Welcome, kindred glooms!
    Congenial horrors, hail!
    • l. 5-6.
  • Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave.
    • l. 393.
  • There studious let me sit,
    And hold high converse with the mighty dead.
    • l. 431-432.
  • The kiss, snatch'd hasty from the sidelong maid.
    • l. 625.

Summer (1727)

  • The meek-ey'd Morn appears, mother of dews.
    • l. 47.
  • Falsely luxurious, will not man awake?
    • l. 67.
  • But yonder comes the powerful king of day,
    Rejoicing in the east.
    • l. 81.
  • Ships dim-discovered dropping from the clouds.
    • l. 946.
  • And Mecca saddens at the long delay.
    • l. 979.
  • For many a day, and many a dreadful night,
    Incessant lab'ring round the stormy cape.
    • l. 1002.
  • Sighed and looked unutterable things.
    • l. 1188.
  • A lucky chance, that oft decides the fate
    Of mighty monarchs.
    • l. 1285.
  • So stands the statue that enchants the world,
    So bending tries to veil the matchless boast,
    The mingled beauties of exulting Greece.
    • l. 1346.
  • Who stemm'd the torrent of a downward age.
    • l. 1515.
  • Tutor'd by thee, hence Poetry exalts
    Her voice to ages; and informs the page
    With music, image, sentiment, and thought,
    Never to die! the treasure of mankind!
    Their highest honour, and their truest joy!
    • l. 1752.

Spring (1728)

  • Come, gentle Spring! ethereal mildness, come.
    • l. 1.
  • The negligence of Nature wide and wild,
    Where, undisguised by mimic art, she spreads
    Unbounded beauty to the roving eye.
    • l. 71-73.
  • Base Envy withers at another’s joy,
    And hates that excellence it cannot reach.
    • l. 283.
  • But who can paint
    Like Nature? Can imagination boast,
    Amid its gay creation, hues like hers?
    • l. 465.
  • Amid the roses fierce Repentance rears
    Her snaky crest.
    • l. 996.
  • Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
    To teach the young idea how to shoot.
    • l. 1149-1150.
  • An elegant sufficiency, content,
    Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
    Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
    Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven!
    • l. 1158-1161.

Autumn (1730)

  • Crowned with the sickle, and the wheaten sheaf,
    While Autumn, nodding o'er the yellow plain,
    Comes jovial on.
    • l. 1-3.
  • Poor is the triumph o’er the timid hare!
    Scared from the corn, and now to some lone seat
    • l. 71-73.
  • For loveliness
    Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
    But is when unadorned adorned the most.
    • l. 208-210.
  • He saw her charming, but he saw not half
    The charms her downcast modesty conceal'd.
    • l. 229.
  • For still the world prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
    Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn.
    • l. 233.
  • Or where the Northern ocean, in vast whirls,
    Boils round the naked melancholy isles
    Of farthest Thulè, and th' Atlantic surge
    Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.
    • l. 871-874.
  • A pleasing land of drowsyhed it was,
    Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
    And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
    Forever flushing round a summer sky:
    There eke the soft delights that witchingly
    Instil a wanton sweetness through the breast,
    And the calm pleasures always hover'd nigh;
    But whate'er smack'd of noyance or unrest
    Was far, far off expell'd from this delicious nest.
    • Canto I, Stanza 6.
  • They who are pleased themselves must always please.
    • Canto I, Stanza 15.
  • The best of men have ever loved repose:
    They hate to mingle in the filthy fray;
    Where the soul sours, and gradual rancour grows,
    Imbitter'd more from peevish day to day.
    • Canto I, Stanza 17.
  • He ceased; but still their trembling ears retained
    The deep vibrations of his witching song.
    • Canto I, Stanza 20.
  • O fair undress, best dress! it checks no vein,
    But every flowing limb in pleasure drowns,
    And heightens ease with grace.
    • Canto I, Stanza 26.
  • Plac'd far amid the melancholy main.
    • Canto I, Stanza 30.
  • Scoundrel maxim.
    • Canto I, Stanza 50.
  • But what most showed the vanity of life
    Was to behold the nations all on fire.
    • Canto I, Stanza 55.
  • A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard becomes
    Who void of envy, guile and lust of gain,
    On virtue still and nature's pleasing themes
    Poured forth his unpremeditated strain.
    • Canto I, Stanza 68. (Last line said to be "writ by a friend of the author.").
  • A little, round, fat, oily man of God.
    • Canto I, Stanza 69.
  • Their only labour was to kill the time;
    And labour dire it is, and weary woe,
    They sit, they loll, turn o'er some idle rhyme,
    Then, rising sudden, to the glass they go,
    Or saunter forth, with tottering steps and slow.
    • Canto I, Stanza 72.
  • I care not, Fortune, what you me deny;
    You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace,
    You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
    Through which Aurora shows her brightening face;
    You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
    The woods and lawns, by living stream, at eve.
    Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
    And I their toys to the great children leave:
    Of fancy, reason, virtue, naught can me bereave.
    • Canto II, Stanza 3.
  • Ah! what avail the largest gifts of Heaven,
    When drooping health and spirits go amiss?
    How tasteless then whatever can be given!
    Health is the vital principle of bliss,
    And exercise, of health.
    • Canto II, Stanza 55.
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