Josiah Conder (1789-1855)

return to sonnet central return to the Romantic era

The Seasons

Spring, summer, autumn! priestesses that hold
Alternate watch at nature's altar! Deep
And full of mystery the course ye keep
In hidden sympathy. First, chastely cold,
Thou, vestal spring, most gently dost unfold
The oracles of nature, and from sleep
Enchanted bid her infant beauties peep.
Thou, summer, dost inscribe in living gold
The fullness of each promise sibylline,
And makest in part the bright fruition thine,
Murmuring soft music from her leafy fane:
Till autumn's stores reveal in corn and wine
The meaning shut in every bud and grain.
Then comes the solemn pause which calls spring back again.


Now day survives the sun. The pale grey skies
A sort of dull and dubious lustre keep
As with their own light shining. Nature lies
Slumbering, and gazing on me in her sleep,
So still, so mute, with fixed and soul-less eyes.
The sun is set, yet not a star is seen:
Distinct the landscape, save where intervene
The creeping mists that from the dark stream rise;
Now spread into a sea with islets broken,
And woodland points, now poised on the thin air:
In the black west the clouds a storm betoken
And all things seem a spectral gloom to wear.
The cautious bat resents the lingering light,
And the long-folded sheep wonder it is not night.


There is, I think, no sunshine like the sky
Of those mild, breezy, cloudless autumn days
Which tempt once more abroad the butterfly
To search for lingering flowers; when the green sprays
Of ash, now loosened, drop on him who strays
Through woodland paths, while the light yellow leaves
Of fading trees come dancing down all ways
Like wingéd things; and oft the stream receives
Full many a tiny voyager, whirled along
Amid its eddies;--when the gossamer spreads
Over the fresh clods her trembling silvery threads;
And robin, thinly screened, his sweetest song
Pours forth as if triumphant over the scene,
He said, "Spring will return, and all again be green."