The Seasons is written in blank verse and consists of four books (each named after one of the seasons) and a closing hymn. When the full cycle was published in 1730 (with some of the books reworked and expanded through to 1746) it was immediately popular and continued to sell into the nineteenth century.
In the poem Thomson touches on a number of far-ranging subjects from a description of a harsh winter (which includes the death of a shepherd in the snow), nuptial love, a condemnation of shooting and hunting, lovers struck by lightning, and a risqué description of Damon watching Musidora bathing. Each is linked to the season in which it occurs.
The poem was highly influential, representing a stylic shift away from Alexander Pope’s ‘urban’ poetry to a more ‘topographical’ style which would influence the Romantics. Coleridge described Thomson as a ‘great poet, rather than a good one.’ The artist JMW Turner was similarly inspired by his poetry.
This edition has a substantial Appendix with secondary material essential to the reader including:
‘On A Country Life’ by James Thomson
Canto I of ‘Rural Sports: A Georgic’ by John Gay
Book IV (1008-1279) from Of the Nature of Things by Lucretius
Canto II of The Excursion by David Malloch
‘To a Mountain Daisy’ by Robert Burns
Chapter 1 of Rasselas by Samuel Johnson
Book V (excerpt) of The Lusiads by Luís de Camões
‘Admiral Hosier’s Ghost’ by Richard Glover
Extract from Part V of Liberty by James Thomson
Extract from Part I of Liberty by James Thomson
Selected stanzas from Canto II of The Castle of Indolence by James Thomson
‘Idyll XXV: How Heracles Slew the Lion’ by Theocritus
Chapter VI of Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
Chapter II of The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott
‘The Farmer’s Ingle’ by Robert Fergusson
The First Georgic by Virgil
‘The Babes in the Wood’
Book I Canto 3 of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Extract from Part III of Liberty by James Thomson
Paraphrase of Job XIV by Michael Bruce
Extract from Book VI of Metamorphosis by Ovid
‘Hymn Before Sunrise, in The Vale of Chamouni’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
We have limited each page to one stanza, and where possible notes are provided on the same page as the verse they refer to. This is to facilitate ease of reference, and is unique to this edition. Notes are indicated by a bracketed letter: eg [a]. The footnotes include omitted or additional text, together with material useful to the general reader. Occasionally we refer to the Oxford English Dictionary: these definitions are flagged ‘OED’.
We have hyperlink all secondary material to its original source via archive.org.