1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

T. J. [Thomas Chalkley James?], "On Reading the Odes of Collins" Columbian Magazine [Philadelphia] 1 (October 1786) 92.



Hail, bard sublime!
Foremost unrivall'd in the roll of time:
Descend, and o'er thy warm admirer's head,
One kindred ray of thy bright genius shed.
Ah me! how vain the bold presumptuous thought!
Can common fingers sweep the heav'nly lyre?
Will vulgar hands aspire,
To weave the magic web which Fancy only taught
Her darling son to frame, and wonder'd as he wrought.

Oft has my raptur'd bosom beat,
With energetic glowing heat,
As Collins struck the trembling chord,
And wayward passions own'd their lord.
When Pity breathes her tender lay,
The soul of softness feels her sway;
Enamour'd of the name I grow,
And lose myself in fancied woe.

But, hark! what sounds around me roll,
And harrow up the frighted soul?
Sounds that would chill a saint to hear;
"I see — I see — 'tis frantic Fear:"
Danger attends the hideous spright,
In guise — the hardiest soul to fright,
Drest in his most tremendous form,
And riding on the roaring storm:
Ah! fiend avaunt, and leave the cell,
Where sweet Simplicity shall dwell,
With Mercy, mild, celestial maid;
And Liberty in smiles array'd:
And more — to charm th' enraptur'd swain,
See Peace compleats the lovely train.

But now the notes sublimely rise,
And float along th' etherial skies,
With bolder aim: — The muses spring
To hear the mighty master sing;
The strains with glorious ardor swell,
The Passions tune the choral shell;
No rival here the bard will own,
See nervous Pindar quits his throne,
E'en Dryden's self is forc'd to yield,
And share the vast unbounded field.

While sympathy can e'er impart
One soft sensation to the heart—
While love or friendship claim the pow'r
To soothe the tender varied hour,
So long shall Eve's extatic charms,
Court the sad lover to her arms:
Nor shall the Druid's wood-notes fear
To call the pearly stealing tear.

But stop thy hand — thy praises hold—
Nor try to gild refined gold.