1794 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

Robert Alves, in Sketches of a History of Literature (1794) 251-52.



Nor must we omit Collins, eminent both for genius and correctness of style. A remarkable terseness of language, with a peculiar wildness of fancy, sweetness, and variety of numbers, joined to images and allusions of the most lively and descriptive sort, all distinguish him as a lyric poet of the first rank. He has, however, his faults.

In his Oriental Eclogues, he is exceedingly clear, pleasing and characteristic. In his Odes, though in general poetical and striking, he is now and then affectedly obscure. Labouring for uncommon thought and uncommon expression, he becomes too metaphysical, too allegorical, and even sometimes wholly unintelligible. At least, this is his character in a few Odes, where affecting uncommon sublimity, he overshoots the mark, and loses himself in the wildest tracts of raving and extravagance.

Eccentric in his genius and temper, and more swayed by passion and fancy than by sober judgment, this unhappy man plunged himself early in dissipation and distress, which at last was followed by a deep melancholy, that terminated in his death. His two best Odes are that on the Passions, and the Ode to Evening.