Descriptive Poetry - James Thomson

James Thomson

This species of writing had been cultivated to a considerable degree through the preceding century, in Italy and (as the remarks of Boileau testify) in France, but it was in England that it reached its highest importance. The classic of descriptive poetry, in fact, the specimen that the literature of the world presents that must be considered as the most important and the most successful, is The Seasons (1726–1730) of James Thomson.

For the first time, a poet of considerable eminence appeared, to whom external nature was all sufficient and who succeeded in conducting a long poem to its close by a single appeal to landscape and to the emotions it directly evokes. Coleridge, somewhat severely, described The Seasons as the work of a good rather than of a great poet and it is an indisputable fact that, at its very best, descriptive poetry fails to awaken the highest powers of the imagination. A great part of Thomson's poem is nothing more nor less than a skillfully varied catalogue of natural phenomena. The famous description of twilight in the fading many-colored woods of autumn may be taken as an example of the highest art to which purely descriptive poetry has ever attained. It is obvious even here that the effect of these rich and sonorous lines, in spite of the splendid effort of the artist, is monotonous and leads up to no final crisis of passion or rapture. Yet Thomson succeeds, as few other poets of his class have succeeded, in producing nobly-massed effects and comprehensive beauties such as were utterly unknown to his predecessors.

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Famous quotes containing the words thomson and/or james:

    Thus Winter falls,
    A heavy gloom oppressive o’er the world
    Through Nature shedding influence malign,
    And rouses up the seeds of dark disease.
    The soul of man dies in him, loathing life,
    And black with more than melancholy views.
    —James Thomson (1700–1748)

    I hate American simplicity. I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort. If I could pronounce the name James in any different or more elaborate way I should be in favour of doing it.
    —Henry James (1843–1916)