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The editor of these poems has met with nothing in the same species of poetry, either in his own, or in any other language, equal, in all respects, to the following description of Danger:
"Danger, whose limbs of giant mould,
It is impossible to contemplate the image conveyed
the ninth Æneid:
-Te, Catilina, minaci Pendentem scopulo.
The archetype of the Eglish poet's idea was in] Nature, and probably to her alone he was indebted for the thought. From her, likewise, he derived that magnificence of conception, that horrible grandeur of imagery, displayed in the following lines:
"And those, the fiends, who near allied, O'er Nature's wounds and wrecks preside; While Vengeance, in the lurid air, Lifts her red arm, expos'd and bare: On whom that ravening brood of Fate, Who lap the blood of Sorrow, wait." That nutritive enthusiasm, which cherishes the seeds of poetry, and which is, indeed, the only soil wherein they will grow to perfection, lays open the mind to all the influences of fiction. A passion for whatever is greatly wild, or magnificent in the works of Nature, seduces the imagination to attend to all that is extravagant, however unnatural. Milton was notoriously fond of high romance and Gothic dialleries; and Collins, who in genius and enthusiasm bore no very distant resemblance to Milton, was wholly carried away by the same attachments. "Be mine to read the visions old, Which thy awakening bards have told: And, lest thou meet my blasted view, Hold each strange tale devoutly true."
"On that thrice hallow'd eve, &c." There is an old traditionary superstition, that on St. Mark's eve the forms of all such persons as shall die within the ensuing year, make their solemn entry into the churches of their respective parishes, as St. Patrick swam over the channel, without their heads.
ODE TO SIMPLICITY.
THE measure of the ancient ballad seems to have been made choice of for this ode, on account of the subject, and it has, indeed, an air of simplicity not altogether unaffecting:
"By all the honey'd store
On Hybla's thymy shore,
By all her blooms, and mingled murmurs dear,
In evening musings slow,
Sooth'd sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear." This allegorical imagery of the honey'd store, the blooms, and mingled murmurs of Hybla, alluding to the sweetness and beauty of the Attic poetry, has the finest and the happiest effect: yet, possibly, it will bear a question, whether the ancient Greek tragedians had a general claim to simplicity in any thing more than the plans of their drama. Their language, at least, was infinitely metaphorical; yet it must be owned that they justly copied Nature and the passions, and so far, certainly, they were entitled to the palm of true simplicity: the following most beautiful speech of Polynices will be a monument of this so long as poetry shall last.
-πολυδακρυς δ' αφικόμην χρόνιος ιδων μελαθρα, και βωμους θεατ, Γυμνασια θ', όισιν ενετραφην, Δίρκης θα ὕδωρο 'Ων ου δικαίως απελαθεις, ξενην πόλιν Ναιω, δι' όσσαν ομμ' εχαν δακρυῤῥουν. Αλλ' (εκ γαρ αλγους αλγος) αν σε δερκομία, Καρά ξυρημές, και πεπλου; μελαγχιμους EURIP. Phoeniss, ver. 369. Exousav.
"But staid to sing alone
To one distinguish'd throne."
The poet cuts off the prevalence of simplicity among the Romans with the reign of Augustus; and, indeed, it did not continue much longer, most of the compositions, after that date, giving inte false and artificial ornament.
"No more, in hall or bower, The passions own thy power,
Love, only Love, her forceless numbers mean." In these lines the writings of the Provençal poets, are principally alluded to, in which simplicity is generally sacrificed to the rhapsodies of romantic love.
ODE ON THE POETICAL CHARACTER.
Procul! O! procul este profani!
THIS ode is so infinitely abstracted and replete with high enthusiasm, that it will find few readers capable of entering into the spirit of it, or of relishing its beauties. There is a style of sentiment as utterly unintelligible to common capacities, as
if the subject were treated in an unknown language; and it is on the same account that abstracted poetry will never have many admirers. The authors of such poems must be content with the approbation of those heaven-favoured geniuses, who, by a similarity of taste and sentiment, are enabled to penetrate the high mysteries of inspired fancy, and to pursue the loftiest flights of enthusiastic imagination. Nevertheless, the praise of the distinguished few is certainly preferable to the applause of the undiscerning million; for all praise is valuable in proportion to the judgment of those who confer it.
of the locks of the Spartan youths, and greatly
Βοστρύχων τε κυανόχρωτα χαιταῖς
"What new Alceus, fancy-blest,
Shall sing the sword, in myrtles drest, &c." This alludes to a fragment of Alcæus still remaining, in which the poet celebrates Harmodius and Aristogiton, who slew the tyrant Hipparchus, and thereby restored the liberty of Athens.
The fall of Rome is here most nervously described in one line:
"With heaviest sound, a giant-statue, fell."
As the subject of this ode is uncommon, so are the style and expression highly metaphorical and abstracted; thus the Sun is called "the rich-The thought seems altogether new, and the imitahair'd youth of morn," the ideas are termed tive harmony in the structure of the verse is ad"the shadowy tribes of mind," &c. struck with the propriety of this mode of exAfter bewailing the ruin of ancient liberty, the pression here, and it affords us new proofs of the poet considers the influence it has retained, or still analogy that subsists between language and senti-retains among the moderns; and here the free re
Nothing can be more loftily imagined than the creation of the cestus of Fancy in this ode: the allegorical imagery is rich and sublime: and the observation, that the dangerous passions kept aloof during the operation, is founded on the strictest philosophical truth; for poetical fancy can exist only in minds that are perfectly serene, and in some measure abstracted from the influences of
ODE TO MERCY.
THE Ode written in 1746, and the Ode to Mercy, seem to have been written on the same occasion, viz. the late rebellion; the former in memory of those heroes who fell in the defence of their country, the latter to excite sentiments of compassion in favour of those unhappy and deluded wretches who became a sacrifice to public justice.
The language and imagery of both are very beautiful; but the scene and figures described in the strophe of the Ode to Mercy are exquisitely striking, and would afford a painter one of the finest subjects in the world.
ODE TO LIBERTY.
THE ancient states of Greece, perhaps the only ones in which a perfect model of liberty ever existed, are naturally brought to view in the opening of the poem.
"Who shall awake the Spartan fife,
publics of Italy naturally engage his attentionFlorence, indeed, only to be lamented on account of losing its liberty under those patrons of letters, the Medicean family; the jealous Pisa, justly so called in respect to its long impatience and regret under the same yoke; and the small Marino, which, however unrespectable with regard to power or extent of territory, has, at least, this distinction to boast, that it has preserved its liberty longer than any other state, ancient or modern, having, without any revolution, retained its present mode of government near 1400 years.
patron saint who founded it, and from whom it takes
"Nor e'er her former pride relate,
In these lines the poet alludes to those ravages in
When the favour'd of thy choice,
"Those whom the rod of Alva bruis'd,
The Flemings were so dreadfully oppressed by this sanguinary general of Philip the Second, that they offered their sovereignty to Elizabeth, but, happily for her subjects, she had policy and magnanimity enough to refuse it. Desormeaux, in his Abrégé Chronologique de l'Histoire d'Espagne, thus describes the sufferings of the Flemings: Le Duc d'Albe achevoit de réduire les Flamands au désespoir. Après avoir inondé les echafauts du sang le plus noble et le plus précieux, il faisoit construire des citadelles en divers endroits, et vouloit établir l'Alcavala, ce tribut onéreux qui avoit été longtems en usage parmi les Espagnols.--Abreg. Chron. tom. iv.
sometimes, as in this place, it is given to the Isle of Man. Both those isles still retain much of the genius of superstition, and are now the only places where there is the least chance of finding a fairy.
TO A LADY, ON THE DEATH OF COLONEL CHARLES ROSS IN THE ACTION AT FONTENOY.
WRITTEN MAY, 1745.
THE iambic kind of numbers in which this ode is conceived, seems as well calculated for tender and plaintive subjects, as for those where strength or rapidity is required.-This, perhaps, is owing to the repetition of the strain in the same stanza; for sorrow rejects variety, and affects an uniformity of complaint. It is needless to observe that this ode is replete with harmony, spirit, and pathos; and there, surely, appears no reason why the seventh and eighth stanzas should be omitted in that copy printed in Dodsley's Collection of Poems.
ODE TO EVENING.
THE blank ode has for some time solicited admission into the English poetry; but its efforts, hitherto, seem to have been vain, at least its reception has been no more than partial. It remains a question, then, whether there is not something in the nature of blank verse less adapted to the lyric than to the heroic measure, since, though it has been generally received in the latter, it is yet unadopted in the former. In order to discover this, we are to consider the different modes of these different species of poetry. That of the heroic is uniform; that of the lyric is various; and in these circumstances of uniformity and variety, probably, - lies the cause why blank verse has been successful in the one, and unacceptable in the other. While it presented itself only in one form, it was familiarized to the ear by custom; but where it was obliged to assume the different shapes of the lyric Muse, it seemed still a stranger of uncouth figure, was received rather with curiosity than pleasure, and entertained without that ease, or satisfaction, which acquaintance and familiarity produce.— Moreover, the heroic blank verse obtained a sanction of infinite importance to its general reception, when it was adopted by one of the greatest poets the world ever produced, and was made the vehicle of the noblest poem that ever was written. When this poem at length extorted that applause which ignorance and prejudice had united to withhold, the versification soon found its imitators, and became more generally successful than even in those countries from whence it was imported. But lyric blank verse had met with no such advantages; for Mr. Collins, whose genius and judgment in harmony might have given it so powerful an effect, hath left us but one specimen of it in the Ode to Evening.
In the choice of his measure he seems to have had in his eye Horace's Ode to Pyrrha; for this ode bears the nearest resemblance to that mixt kind of the asclepiad and pherecratic verse; and that resemblance in some degree reconciles us to the want of rhyme, while it reminds us of those great masters of antiquity, whose works had no need of this whimsical jingle of sounds.
From the following passage one might be induced to think that the poet had it in view to render his subject and his versification suitable to each other on this occasion, and that, when he addressed himself to the sober power of Evening, he had thought proper to lay aside the foppery of rhyme :
"Now teach me, maid compos'd, To breathe some soften'd strain, Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening May not unseemly with its stillness suit, As, musing slow, I hail
Thy genial lov'd return!".
But whatever were the numbers, or the versification of this ode, the imagery and enthusiasm it contains could not fail of rendering it delightful. No other of Mr. Collins's odes is more generally characteristic of his genius. In one place we discover his passion for visionary beings:
"For when thy folding-star arising shows
And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge,
And sheds the freshening dew, and lovelier still,
another we behold his strong bias to melancholy :
"Then let me rove some wild and heathy scene, Or find some ruin 'midst its dreary dells, Whose walls more awful nod By thy religious gleams." Then appears his taste for what is wildly grand and magnificent in nature; when, prevented by storms from enjoying his evening walk, he wishes for a situation,
"That from the mountain's side Views wild and swelling floods ;" And, through the whole, his invariable attachment to the expression of painting:
and marks o'er all Thy dewy fingers draw The gradual dusky veil."
It might be a sufficient encomium on this beautiful ode to observe, that it has been particularly admired by a lady to whom Nature has given the most perfect principles of taste. She has not even complained of the want of rhyme in it, a circumstance by no means unfavourable to the cause of lyric blank verse; for surely, if a fair reader can endure an ode without bells and chimes, the masculine genius may dispense with them.
THE MANNERS. AN ODE.
FROM the subject and sentiments of this ode, it seems not improbable that the author wrote it about the time when he left the University; when, weary with the pursuit of academical studies, he no longer confined himself to the search of theoretical knowledge, but commenced the scholar of humanity, to study nature in her works, and man in society.
The following farewell to Science exhibits a
very just as well as striking picture; for, however
"Farewell the porch, whose roof is seen,
When the mind goes in pursuit of visionary systems,
In the poet's address to Humour in this ode, there is one image of singular beauty and propriety. The ornaments in the hair of Wit are of such a nature, and disposed in such a manner, as to be perfectly symbolical and characteristic:
"Me too amidst thy band admit,
There where the young-ey'd healthful Wit (Whose jewels in his crisped hair Are plac'd each other's beams to share, Whom no delights from thee divide) In laughter loos'd attends thy side." Nothing could be more expressive of wit, which consists in a happy collision of comparative and relative images, than this reciprocal reflection of light from the disposition of the jewels.
"O Humour, thou whose name is known To Britain's favour'd isle alone."
The author could only mean to apply this to the time when he wrote, since other nations had produced works of great humour, as he himself acknowledges afterwards.
THE PASSIONS. AN ODE FOR MUSIC. If the music which was composed for this ode, had equal merit with the ode itself, it must have been the most excellent performance of the kind, in which poetry and music have, in modern times, united. Other pieces of the same nature have derived their greatest reputation from the perfection of the music that accompanied them, having in themselves little more merit than that of an ordinary ballad: but in this we have the whole soul and power of poetry-Expression that, even
without the aid of music, strikes to the heart; and imagery of power enough to transport the attention, without the forceful alliance of corresponding sounds! what, then, must have been the effects of these united!
It is very observable that though the measure is the same, in which the musical efforts of fear, anger, and despair, are described, yet by the variation of the cadence, the character and operation of each is strongly expressed: thus particularly of Despair :
"With woful measures wan Despair
'T was sad by fits, by starts 't was wild."
The picture of Hope that follows this is beautiful
And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail!
And from the rocks, the woods, the vale,
A soft responsive voice was heard at every close,
In what an exalted light does the above stanza place this great master of poetical imagery and harmony! what varied sweetness of numbers! what delicacy of judgment and expression! how characteristically does Hope prolong her strain, repeat her soothing closes, call upon her associate Echo for the same purposes, and display every pleasing grace peculiar to her!
"And Hope enchanted smil'd, and wav'd her
Legat, qui nunquam legit;
The descriptions of joy, jealousy, and revenge,
TO SIR THOMAS HANMER, ON HIS EDITION OF
THIS poem was written by our author at the University, about the time when sir Thomas Hanmer's pompous edition of Shakespeare was printed at Oxford. If it has not so much merit as the rest of his poems, it has still more than the subject deserves. The versification is easy and genteel, and the allusions always poetical. The character of
the poet Fletcher in particular is very justly drawn | ful and tender as they are, without corresponding
in this epistle.
DIRGE IN CYMBELINE.
ODE ON THE DEATH OF MR. THOMSON.
Mr. Collins had skill to complain. Of that mournful melody, and those tender images, which are the distinguishing excellencies of such pieces as bewail departed friendship, or beauty, he was an almost unequalled master. He knew perfectly to exhibit such circumstances, peculiar to the objects, as awaken the influences of pity; and while, from his own great sensibility, he felt what he wrote, he naturally addressed himself to the feelings of others.
emotions of pity, is surely impossible:
"The tender thought on thee shall dwell.
And mourn'd, till Pity's self be dead." The ode on the death of Thomson seems to have been written in an excursion to Richmond by water. The rural scenery has a proper effect in an ode to the memory of a poet, much of whose merit lay in descriptions of the same kind; and the appellations of " Druid," and "meek Nature's child," are happily characteristic. For the better understanding of this ode, it is necessary to remember, that Mr. Thomson lies buried in the church of
To read such lines as the following, all beauti- | Richmond.