The Invitation to Selborne

Original Text: 
Gilbert White, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, in the County of Southampton. To Which are Added, The Naturalist's Calendar; Observations on Various Parts of Nature; and Poems, New Edn. (London: White, Cochrane, and others, 1813): 563-65. Facsimile edn., intro. P. G. M. Foster, The Ray Society, no. 160 (London: The Ray Society, 1993). QH 138 S4W5 1993b Gerstein Library
2The varied valley, and the mountain ground,
3Wildly majestic! what is all the pride
4Of flats, with loads of ornament supply'd?
5Unpleasing, tasteless, impotent expense,
6Compar'd with nature's rude magnificence.
7    Arise, my stranger, to these wild scenes haste
8The unfinish'd farm awaits your forming taste:
9Plan the pavilion, airy, light and true;
10Thro' the high arch call in the lengthening view;
11Expand the forest sloping up the hill;
13Extend the vista, raise the castle mound
15O'er the gay lawn the flow'ry shrub dispread,
16Or with the blending garden mix the mead;
17Bid China's pale, fantastic fence, delight,
18Or with the mimic statue trap the sight.
19    Oft on some evening, sunny, soft and still,
20The Muse shall lead thee to the beech-grown hill,
21To spend in tea the cool, refreshing hour,
25By fancy plann'd; as once th' inventive maid
26Met the boar sage amid the secret shade;
27Romantic spot! from whence in prospect lies
28Whate'er of landscape charms our feasting eyes;
29The pointed spire, the hall, the pasture-plain,
31The breezy lake that sheds a gleaming light,
32Till all the fading picture fail the sight.
33    Each to his task; all different ways retire,
34Cull the dry stick; call forth the seeds of fire;
35Deep fix the kettle's props, a forky row,
36Or give with fanning bat the breeze to blow.
37    Whence is this taste, the furnish'd hall forgot,
39Or novelty with some new charms surprizes,
40Or from our very shifts some joy arises.
41Hark, while below the village-bells ring round,
42Echo, sweet nymph, returns the soften'd sound;
43But if gusts rise, the rushing forests roar,
44Like the tide tumbling on the pebbly shore.
45    Adown the vale, in lone, sequester'd nook,
47The ruin'd Convent lies; here wont to dwell
49While papal darkness brooded o'er the land,
50Ere reformation made her glorious stand:
51Still oft at eve belated shepherd-swains
54The mountain-brow commands the woods below;
55In Jewry first this order found a name,
57When western climes, urg'd on by Pope and priest,
58Pour'd forth their millions o'er the deluged east;
59Luxurious knights, ill suited to defy
60To mortal fight Turcéstan chivalry.
61    Nor be the Parsonage by the muse forgot.
62The partial bard admires his native spot;
63Smit with its beauties, loved, as yet a child,
64(Unconscious why) its scapes grotesque, and wild.
65High on a mound th' exalted gardens stand,
66Beneath, deep vallies scoop'd by nature's hand.
68Might blend the General's with the Gardener's part;
69Might fortify with all the martial trade
71Might plant the mortar with wide threatening bore,
72Or bid the mimic cannon seem to roar.
73    Now climb the steep, drop now your eye below,
74Where round the blooming village orchards grow;
75There, like a picture, lies my lowly seat,
76A rural, shelter'd, unobserved retreat.
77    Me far above the rest Selbornian scenes,
78The pendent forests, and the mountain-greens
79Strike with delight; there spreads the distant view,
80That gradual fades till sunk in misty blue:
81Here nature hangs her slopy woods to sight,


1] Selborne: Hampshire village near Alton, the place of which White wrote in his Natural History and Antiquities (1789). Back to Line
12] penurious rill: small brook. Back to Line
14] antique: old. Back to Line
22] pensile: overhanging, pendant. bower: "A kind of an arbour on the side of a hill" (note in 1813 edn.). Back to Line
23] "A grotesque building, contrived by a young gentleman, who used on occasion to appear in the character of an hermit" (note in 1813 edn.) This line forms the legend to an engraving on p. vii of the 1789 edition (Martin, p. 92). Back to Line
24] dell: deep narrow valley. Back to Line
30] russet fallow: brown ploughed land. Back to Line
38] unhandy grot: inconvenient cave or cavern for retiring. Back to Line
46] imbrown: embrown, darken, make brown. Back to Line
48] canon: "The ruins of a priory, founded by Peter de Rupibus Bishop of Winchester" (note in 1813 edn.). Back to Line
52] cowl'd: wearing a monk's hood. Back to Line
53] the high temple: "The remains of a preceptory of the Knights Templars; at least it was a farm dependant upon some preceptory of that order. I find it was a preceptary, called the preceptory of Sudingion; now called Southington" (note in 1813 edn.). Back to Line
56] Croisades: Crusades. Back to Line
67] Cobham: Sir Richard Temple (1675-1749), Lord Viscount Cobham, eulogized by Alexander Pope in two epistles for his garden at Stowe. See Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle IV. Back to Line
70] fosse: narrow trench. palisade: "A fence made of pales or stakes fixed in the ground, forming an enclosure or defence" (OED 1). Back to Line
82] purl: flow in a rippling, gurgling manner. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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