Hymn on Solitude

Original Text: 
A Collection of Poems. By Several Hands. In Three Volumes. (First edition.) London: R. Dodsley, 1748. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Shelf-mark B-10 09141.
2Companion of the wise, and good!
3But, from whose holy, piercing eye,
4The herd of fools, and villains fly.
5     Oh! how I love with thee to walk!
6And listen to thy whisper'd talk;
7Which innocence, and truth imparts,
8And melts the most obdurate hearts.
9     A thousand shapes you wear with ease,
10And still in every shape you please;
11Now wrapt in some mysterious dream,
12A lone Philosopher you seem;
13Now quick from hill to vale you fly,
14And now you sweep the vaulted sky,
17And pining, hang the pensive head.
18A shepherd next, you haunt the plain,
20A lover now, with all the grace
21Of that sweet passion in your face!
22Then, soft-divided, you assume
25(Her Philomela fond of thee)
26Amid the long withdrawing vale,
27Awakes the rival'd Nightingale.
28A thousand shapes you wear with ease,
29And still in every shape you please.
30     Thine is th' unbounded breath of morn.
31Just as the dew-bent rose is born;
34But chief, when evening scenes decay,
36Thine is the delightful dear decline,
37And that last hour of musing thine.
38     Descending angels bless thy train,
39The Virtues of the sage, and swain;
40Plain Innocence in white array'd.
42Religion, with her awful brow,
44     Oh, let me pierce thy secret cell!
45And in thy deep recesses dwell;
47For ever from the world retir'd;
48Nor by a mortal seen, save he


1] The earliest version of this poem dates from 1725, composed soon after Thomson's removal from Scotland to London. He revised the poem in 1727, and it was first published in a collection edited by James Ralph in 1729. A very similar version appears in Robert Dodsley's collection, A Collection of Poems, By Several Hands, published in March 1748. Following Thomson's sudden and unexpected death in August of that year, his friend George Lyttelton prepared an edition of his shorter poems, published in 1750 as Poems on Several Occasions. By James Thomson. There are significant alterations in this version of the poem, and recent editors incline to suspect that they may be Lyttelton's rather than Thomson's. The text given here is that of 1748; the variant readings of the 1750 edition are given in the notes. The standard edition of Thomson's poems comprises two volumes edited by James Sambrook and published by the Clarendon Press: The Seasons, Oxford, 1981, and Liberty, The Castle of Indolence and Other Poems, Oxford, 1986. ever-pleasing] mildly pleasing 1750 Back to Line
15] Lines 15-17 are omitted in 1750. Back to Line
16] strait] immediately. Back to Line
19] warble forth your oaten strain] play on a pipe made from a oat straw. Back to Line
23] Harford] 1750; H-----d 1748. Frances Thynne, Countess of Hertford, Thomson's friend and patron, to whom he dedicated "Spring" in The Seasons. Thomson spent the summer of 1727 as her guest at Marlborough Castle. Back to Line
24] Philomela] Musidora 1750. "Philomela" was the pen-name of the poet Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1676-1737), an admirer of Thomson's poetry and a good friend of the Countess of Hertford. In Greek mythology, Philomela, daughter of Pandion, king of Athens, was transformed into a nightingale. Back to Line
32] fervors] intense heats. Back to Line
33] dumb] silent. Back to Line
35] landskip] landscape. Back to Line
41] In place of ll. 41-43, 1750 reads: Before thee lifts her fearless head: Religion's beams around thee shine, And cheer thy glooms with light divine: About thee sports sweet Liberty, And rapt Urania sings to thee. Back to Line
43] Urania] Milton's heavenly muse; see the opening of Paradise Lost, Book VII. Back to Line
46] In place of ll, 46-49, 1750 reads: Perhaps from Norwood's oak-clad hill, When meditation has her fill, I just may cast my careless eyes Where London's spiry turrets rise, Think of its crimes, its cares, its pain, Then shield me in the woods again. Norwood was the estate in Kent of Gilbert West, a poet and religious writer who was a cousin of Lyttelton's; Thomson may have visited Norwood, but he is not known to have done so.. Back to Line
49] A Lycidas, or Lycon] Lycidas is the name of a young shepherd in classical pastoral poetry, adopted by Milton for his famous elegy on Henry King; Lycon was a respected Greek philosopher, a contemporary of Aristotle. The names refer to Thomson's friends David Mallet and Patrick Murdoch. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
See note to line 1.
RPO poem Editors: 
John D. Baird
Special Copyright: 

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