1772 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

Anonymous, in "Catalogue of the most celebrated Writers" Letters concerning the present State of England (1772) 351-53.



COLLINS. One of the best poets which we have had in this age; he has written very few pieces, but those of sterling merit. His oriental eclogues have greater merit than any pieces of pastoral poetry in our language. The following passages deserve more notice than they have met with.

In silent honor o'er the boundless waste,
The driver Hassan with his Camels pass'd:
One cruse of water on his back he bore,
And his light scrip contain'd a scanty store;
A fan of painted feathers in his hand,
To guard his shaded face from scorching sand.
The sultry sun had gain'd the middle sky,
And not a tree, and not an herb was nigh;
The beasts with pain their dusty way pursue,
Shrill roar'd the winds, and dreary was the view.
With desp'rate sorrow wild, th' affrighted man
Thrice sigh'd, thrice strook his breast, and thus began:
Sad was the hour, and luckless was the day,
When first from Schiraz' walls I bent my way.

The following description is animated.

Here, where no springs in murmurs break away,
Or moss grown fountains mitigate the day,
In vain ye hope the green delights to know,
Which plains more blest, or verdant vales bestow;
Here rocks alone and tasteless sands are found,
And faint and sickly winds for ever howl around.

In the following passage also there is a great force of expression, and of compassion.

At that dead hour the silent asp shall creep,
If ought of rest I find upon my sleep:
Or some swoln serpent twist his scales around,
And wake to anguish with a burning wound.
Thrice happy they, the wise contented poor,
From lust of wealth, and dread of death secure!
They tempt no desarts, and no griefs they find;
Peace rules the day, where reason rules the mind.