1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

R. T., "Ode to the Genius of Collins" Imperial Magazine [Liverpool] 3 (May 1821) 442.



Hark! I hear my breathing lyre,
A spirit mid thy sad and sullen strings!
A hand sweeps wildly thro' thy quiv'ring wire
As fancy o'er thee spreads her radiant wings!
No mortal touch awakes thee now;
I know that sad and pallid brow,
That starting step and restless eye,
And song of mourning ecstasy—
—O shaded bard, and art thou near,
Who woke those wilder'd chords of fear?
Ruling the rapt and trembling soul,
That shrinks before thy dark and dread control!

Beyond the faint and shadowy forms
That haunt the earth, or fill the sky,
Thro' fancied realms, that lie
Above this mortal bound of calms and storms,
Ere spheres their radiant course began,
His bold enthusiast spirit ran,
And wander'd thro' those paths sublime,
Untrodden by the march of Time,
Where Fate unfolds no book of doom,
Nor Nature sighs o'er beauty's tomb;
But the immortal Sisters, there
For ever braid their golden hair,
And bind the Amaranth flowers that glow
On Phoebus' bright and sacred brow;
But startled at the vision bright,
His spirit bow'd, and sank in mental night.

Who now shall breathe, with lips of fire,
The spirit of that sacred band,
Who first awak'd the Muse's lyre
On Graecia's laurell'd strand?
O sov'reign of the wildly varied song!
'Twas thine to roll the voice along
That charm'd her sons of elder lore,
To Nature, Truth, and Genius true:
What beauties burst upon thy view,
As with a Prophet's hand, thou bore
The garb that veil'd their charms before!
And the throng'd passions stood confest,
And rais'd their throne within thy throbbing breast.

And from the deep secluded shrine
Of holy feeling, known to few,
Burst the loud pealings of thy song divine;
And thrilling with ecstatic measures now
Thy wild harp rung; and first the Eastern muse
The sweet and solemn strain began;
Flowers on her brow and feathers in her hand;
And sang of Persian maids, how royal Abbas woos
In shepherd guise; the ruthless Tartar band;
And Hassan mid the desart faint and wan.—

What angel spirit wakes thee now,
With distant shouts of joy and love,
And hangs enamour'd o'er thy trembling strings?
Forms of untold delight around her move,
And myrtles bind her brow;
And ever at each magic close
Spontaneous scenes of beauty rose,
And young Desire rejoicing flings
His purple light of love around,
And whisper'd it was Hope's enchanted ground.

Too soon she fled; for hark, in mingled strain,
Of love and hate sad murmurs rose;
Now strung to bitterness and pain,
And now the song in tenderest feeling flows.
O curst with love's excess;
And happier had'st thou lov'd her less,
Pale Jealousy! thee none shall aid,
"Still changing and of all afraid;"
Sad Melancholy, from her midnight cave,
Heard the voice, and reckless laid
Her hand amid the changeful strings;
But from the chords such plaintive sounds she brings,
As well might suit the chambers of the grave.

Now comes a louder strain,
—In sounds of mild and varied flow;
Dark fleeting shadows haunt the plain;
Swift a the winds, Fear struck the chords of woe,
And onward fled. Hark, the dirges of the dead!
Panting for blood; lo! dark Revenge,
With desperate hand and eye of flame,
That told the work from whence he came,
Awoke the thunder of the lyre;
And struck with mingled horrors strange
Dropt his uplifted hand, and quench'd his deadly ire.—

Unrivall'd Bard! O Nature's son,
Too soon thy meed of fame was won;
O had the fatal Sisters spar'd,
What had not then thy genius dar'd!
For Nature rul'd with high control,
And flung her mantle o'er thy soul!
While Joy awakes his heart-strung lay,
And Pity weeps her soul away;
While Nature's wonders tow'r sublime
Above the flight of Fate and Time;
So long thy pictur'd truths shall live,
And hallow'd throbs of rapture give
To those whose spirits spurn the earth,
And stamp them of a nobler birth;
Whose deathless claims may none inherit,
But such as boast thy forceful spirit!
—Where breathes thy solemn music wild?
Are sad and sorrowing souls beguil'd
Mid the pale mansions of the dead,
Hearing thy sounds of holy dread?
Or dost thou on some rocky steep
Thy melancholy vigils keep?
Or dress the sod where Freedom fell?
Or Pity's softest cadence swell
Or bid the tide of music flow,
Whilst flowers of Amaranth round thee blow?
And angel forms delighted hear
Thy heaven-born strains to fancy dear?