James Sambrook (ed.), James Thomson: Liberty, The Castle of Indolence, and Other Poems

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Editor’s Note28 Upon Happiness

  • Critical Apparatus1Warn'd by the Summer-Sun's meridian Ray
  • 2As underneath a spreading Oak I lay
  • 3Contemplating the mighty Load of Wo,
  • Critical Apparatus4In search of Bliss that Mortals undergo,
  • pg 2655Who, while they think they Happiness enjoy,
  • 6Embrace a Curse wrapt in delusive Joy,
  • 7I reason'd thus: Since the Creator God
  • Critical Apparatus8Who in eternal Love makes his Abode,
  • 9Hath blended with the Essence of the Soul
  • 10An Appetite as fixed as the Pole,
  • Critical Apparatus11That's always eager in Pursuit of Bliss,
  • Critical Apparatus12And always veering 'till it point to this,
  • 13There is some Object adequate to fill
  • 14This boundless Wish of our extended Will.
  • 15Now while my Thought round Nature's Circle runs
  • Critical Apparatus16(A bolder Journey than the furious Sun's)
  • Critical Apparatus17This chief and satiating Good to find
  • 18Th' attracting Centre of the humane Mind,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus19My Ears they deafen'd, to my swiming Eyes
  • Critical Apparatus20His magick Wand the drowsy God applies,
  • 21Bound all my Senses in a silken Sleep
  • 22While mimick Fancy did her Vigils keep;
  • Critical Apparatus23Yet still methinks some condescending Pow'r
  • 24Rang'd the Ideas in my Mind that Hour.
  • 25  Methought I wand'ring was, with thousands more,
  • 26Beneath an high prodigious Hill, before
  • 27Above the Clouds, whose tow'ring Summit rose
  • 28With utmost Labour, only gain'd by those
  • 29Who grov'ling Prejudices threw away,
  • Critical Apparatus30And with incessant Straining climb'd their Way,
  • Critical Apparatus31Where all who stood their failing Breath to gain,
  • 32With head-long Ruin tumbled down again.
  • 33This Mountain is thro' ev'ry Nation fam'd,
  • 34And, as I learned, Contemplation nam'd.
  • 35O happy me! when I had reach'd its Top
  • 36Unto my Sight a boundless Scene did ope.
  • 37  First, sadly I survey'd with downward Eye,
  • 38Of restless Men below the busy fry,
  • pg 26639Who hunted Trifles in an endless Maze,
  • 40Like foolish Boys on sunny Summer-Days,
  • 41Pursuing Butter-flies with all their Might,
  • Critical Apparatus42Who can't their Troubles in the Chase requite.
  • 43The painted Insect, he who most admires,
  • 44Grieves most when it in his rude Hand expires;
  • 45Or should it live with endless Fears is toss'd,
  • 46Lest it take Wing and be for ever lost.
  • 47  Some Men I saw their utmost Art employ
  • 48How to attain a false deceitful Joy,
  • 49Which from afar conspicuously did blaze,
  • 50And at a Distance fix'd their ravish'd Gaze,
  • 51But nigh at Hand it mock'd their fond Embrace.
  • 52When lo! again it flashed in their Eyes,
  • Critical Apparatus53But still as they drew near, the fond Illusion dies.
  • 54Just so I've seen a Water-Dog pursue
  • 55An unflown Duck within his greedy View,
  • 56When he has, panting, at his Prey arriv'd,
  • 57The Coxcomb fooling—suddenly it div'd,
  • Critical Apparatus58He, gripping, is almost with Water choak'd,
  • Critical Apparatus59And grieves that all his tow'ring Hopes are mock'd;
  • 60Then it emerges, he renews his Toil,
  • 61And o'er and o'er again he gets the Foil.
  • 62Yea all the Joys beneath the conscious Sun,
  • 63And softer ones that his Inspection shun,
  • Critical Apparatus64Much of their Pleasures in Fruition fade.
  • Critical Apparatus65Enjoyment o'er them throws a sullen Shade.
  • Editor’s Note66The Reason is, we promise vaster Things
  • Critical Apparatus67And sweeter Joys than from their Nature springs:
  • Critical Apparatus68When they are lost, we weep th' apparent Bliss,
  • 69And not what really in Fruition is;
  • 70So that our Griefs are greater than our Joys,
  • Critical Apparatus71And real Pain springs from fantastick Toys.
  • pg 26772  Tho' all terrene Delights of Men below
  • 73Are almost nothing but a glaring Show;
  • Critical Apparatus74Yet if there always were a Virgin Joy
  • 75When t'other fades to sooth the wanton Boy,
  • 76He somewhat might excuse his heedless Course,
  • Critical Apparatus77Some Shew of Reason for the same enforce;
  • 78But frugal Nature wisely does deny
  • 79To Mankind such profuse Variety,
  • Critical Apparatus80Has what is needful only to us giv'n
  • Critical Apparatus81To feed and chear us in the Way to Heav'n,
  • 82And more would but the Traveller delay,
  • 83Impede and clog him in his upward Way.
  • 84  I from the Mount all mortal Pleasures saw
  • 85Themselves within a narrow Compass draw:
  • 86The Libertine a nauseous Circle run,
  • 87And dully acted what he'd often done.
  • 88Just so when Luna darts her Silver Ray,
  • 89And pours on silent Earth a paler Day;
  • 90From Stygian Caves the flitting Fairies scud,
  • Critical Apparatus91And on the Margent of some limpid Flood,
  • 92Which by reflected Moon-Light darts a Glance,
  • 93In Mid-night Circles range themselves and dance.
  • 94  To Morrow, crys he, will us entertain:
  • 95Pray what's to Morrow but to Day again?
  • Critical Apparatus96Deluded Youth no more the Chase pursue,
  • 97So oft deceiv'd, no more the Toil renew.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus98But in a constant and a fix'd Design
  • 99Of acting well, there is a lasting Mine
  • 100Of solid Satisfaction, purest Joy,
  • Critical Apparatus101For Vertue's Pleasures never never cloy:
  • Critical Apparatus102Then hither come, climb up the steep Ascent,
  • 103Your painful Labour you will ne'er repent,
  • 104From Heav'n it self here you're but one remove,
  • 105Here's the Preludium of the Joys above,
  • pg 268106Here you'll behold the awful God-head shine,
  • 107And all Perfections in the same combine;
  • 108You'll see that God who, by his pow'rful Call,
  • 109From empty Nothing drew this spacious All,
  • 110Made beauteous Order the rude Mass controul,
  • 111And ev'ry Part subservient to the Whole;
  • Editor’s Note112Here you'll behold upon the fatal Tree
  • 113The God of Nature bleed, expire and die
  • 114For such as 'gainst his holy Laws rebel,
  • 115And such as bid Defiance to his Hell.
  • 116Thro' the dark Gulph, here you may clearly pry
  • 117Twixt narrow Time, and vast Eternity.
  • 118Behold the God-Head just, as well as good,
  • 119And Vengeance pour'd on Tramplers on his Blood;
  • 120But all the Tears wip'd from his Peoples Eyes,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus121And, for their Entrance, cleave the parting Skies.
  • 122Then sure you will with holy Ardours burn,
  • 123And to seraphick Heats your Passion turn:
  • 124Then in your Eyes all Mortal fair will fade,
  • Critical Apparatus125Of his immortal Beauties but the Shade,
  • 126Your self to him you'll solemnly devote,
  • 127To him, without whose Providence you're not,
  • Critical Apparatus128You'll of his Service relish the Delight,
  • 129And to his Praises all your Pow'rs excite,
  • Critical Apparatus130You'll celebrate his Name in heav'nly Sound,
  • 131Which well pleas'd Skies in Echoes will rebound.
  • 132This is the greatest Happiness that can
  • Critical Apparatus133Possessed be in this short Life by Man.
  • 134  But darkly here the God-head we survey,
  • 135Confin'd and cramped in this Cage of Clay.
  • 136What cruel Bands are those to Earth that ties
  • 137Our Souls from Soaring to their native Skies?
  • 138Upon the bright eternal Face to gaze,
  • 139And there drink in the beatifick Rays:
  • 140There to behold the good One and the Fair,
  • 141A Ray from whom all mortal Beauties are?
  • pg 269142In beauteous Nature all the Harmony
  • 143Is but the Echo of the Deity,
  • 144Of all Perfection who the Centre is,
  • 145And boundless Ocean of untainted Bliss,
  • 146For ever open to the ravish'd View,
  • Critical Apparatus147And full Enjoyment of the radiant Crew
  • 148Who live in Raptures of eternal Joy,
  • Critical Apparatus149Whose flaming Love, their tuneful Harps employ
  • 150In solemn Hymns Jehovah's Praise to sing,
  • 151And make all Heav'n with Hallelujahs ring.
  • 152  These Realms of Light no further I'll explore,
  • 153And in these Heights I will no longer soar:
  • 154Not like our grosser Atmosphere beneath,
  • 155The Æther here's too thin for me to breathe.
  • 156The Region is unsufferable bright
  • 157And flashes on me with too strong a Light.
  • 158Then from the Mountain, lo! I now descend,
  • Critical Apparatus159And to my Vision put an hasty End.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
This poem is to a large extent a paraphrase of the letter 'An Idea of Happiness' and some poems in John Norris, Miscellanies (4th edn., 1706), pp. 317–54: see H. Drennon, 'James Thomson and John Norris', Publications of the Modern Language Association, liii (1938), 1094–101.
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1 Sun's] Suns 1720
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4 Mortals] mankind MS
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8 makes] has MS
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11 always] alwise MS
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12 always] alwise MS
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16 bolder] vaster MS
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17–18 not in MS
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19 deafen'd‸ 1720
Eyes, 1720
Editor’s Note
19 deafen'd: became deaf.
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20 The drowsy God his magick wand applies MS
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23–6 MS torn, affecting the first word or two in each line
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30 Straining] strain'd MS
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31 Where] For MS
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42 Troubles] trouble MS
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53 near] nigh MS
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58 gripping] griping MS
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59 grieves] greif MS
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64 Pleasures] lustre MS
fade] fades MS
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65 Enjoyment] Fruition MS
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66 promise: expect.
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67 than] then 1720
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68 we weep] weep MS
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71–5 MS torn, affecting the first two or three words in each line
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74 always] alwise MS
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77 enforce] inforce MS
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80 Has only what is needfull to us giv'n MS
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81 feed and chear] chear and feed MS
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91 Margent] margin MS
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96–100 MS torn, affecting the last word in each line
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98 But] Tho' MS
Editor’s Note
98–105 The substitution in 1720 of 'But' (98) and 'Then' (102), for 'Tho'' and 'Yet' in MS, obscures the distinction between works (acting well) and faith (climbing the hill of Contemplation).
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101 missing in MS
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102 Then] Yet MS
Editor’s Note
112–13 Scottish rhyme; cf. 'Of a Country Life' 55.
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121–5 MS torn, affecting the first two, three, or four words in each line
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121 cleave: intransitive.
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125 Of his immortal] missing in MS
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128 Delight] delights MS
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130 Sound] sounds MS
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133 short] shore 1720
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147–9 MS torn, affecting the last word or two in each line
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149 Whose] Who's 1720
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159 And] Which MS
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