1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen, "Ode to the Memory of Collins" Poems by Three Friends (1813) 68-74.



Strike the harp to notes of woe,
Let the tears of genius flow,
COLLINS is no more!
COLLINS, who struck the sounding lyre,
With Pindar's force, with Pindar's fire,
COLLINS is no more!

He who sang each Passion's power,—
Lost, amazed, bewildered Fear,
Boisterous Anger's raging hour,
Wan and comfortless Despair;
Hope, in sweet, enlivening measure,
Whispering joy, delight, and pleasure,
In each delusive breath;
Fierce Revenge, the warrior lord,
Who ruthless wields his blood-stain'd sword
In crimsoned fields of death;
Sad Jealousy that nought enjoys,
Lonely, pensive Melancholy,
Cheerfulness, whose even joys
Ne'er degenerate to folly;
Joy, whose rapid course is run
Through airy regions of the brain,
Often courted, seldom won,
No sooner won than lost again.—

He, the bard who sang their power,
Is wafted from this lower sphere;
His lyre, that soothed each painful hour,
No more shall wake its music here.
He felt misfortune's keenest dart,
He trod the thorny paths of woe,
The sorrows of his bursting heart,
Oft caused the burning tear to flow.

But down the pallid cheek no more
The starting tear can bring relief;
The flattering dreams of hope are o'er,
Fled the boasted "joy of grief."
Instead of grief and sober sadness,
The starting tear, the bursting sigh,
All the frenzied rage of madness,
Dances in the Poet's eye.
Now his hands the trembling wire
Sweep with all their wonted fire;
Rude the notes and wild the measure,
"Still they whisper promised pleasure,"
And midst the dark funereal gloom,
Talk of a brighter day to come.

But hush! the Minstrel's altered tone,
Proclaims a sad, a sudden change,—
His fairy prospects all are gone,
And horrid phantoms, wild and strange,
Flit before the maniac's sight;
Of all the pangs the damned can know,
Of tales of terror, tales of woe,
That rose in Superstition's night;—
Of these the maniac minstrel sings;
With hurried hand he sweeps the strings,
Then starts, and heaves the unconscious sigh,
And glares and frowns, he knows not why.

But lo! the clouds of mental night
A moment pierced by reason's light!
On high his ardent prayers ascend,
To God, his Father and his Friend,
That his imprisoned soul, set free
From fetters of mortality,
Upborne on wings of heavenly love,
May soar to brighter realms above.

Watch the corroding pangs of death,
Each deep, each agonizing sigh,
Which hastening his expiring breath,
Wafts the pure spirit to the sky!
There a golden harp awaits
The hallowed minstrel's skilful hand;
Angels ope the heavenly gates,
To join him with their seraph band!

Thus, Genius! though the world around
On thy lorn sons has ever frown'd,
And from their sweetest, noblest lay,
Turn'd with a deafen'd ear away,—
Poor, wretched, and dispirited,
Outstretched upon the dying bed,
Has seen them sinking to the grave,
Nor stretched a single arm to save;
Yet, let them know, — the scornful great,
Minions with Fortune's smiles elate!
They cannot, if they would, destroy
The Poet's "sole remaining joy."
For sinking in his last repose,
Whilst yet the fire of Fancy glows,
A moment will his languid eye
Beam with the light of minstrelsy.
And as the scenes which Fancy drew,
In sweet succession to the view,
The thought that his neglected lay
Shall live till Time's expiring day,
Seems to recal his parting breath,
From the quick-gathering shades of death,
And crimsons with a deeper blush,
His withered cheek's last hectic flush.

Then silent, though that tuneful tongue
Breathes not the soul of magic song,
Think not that soul of heaven-born flame
Can perish from recording Fame.
No! whilst you share the common lot,
To die, be buried, and forgot,
Revered his memory shall live,
And from a thousand tongues receive
The high reward of minstrelsy,
A laurelled Immortality!