1833 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

James Montgomery, in Lectures on General Literature, Poetry, &c. (1833) 111.



In smaller poems, blank verse has been rarely tried, except in numerous and nameless imitations of an indifferent prototype by Collins, — a poet who had, indeed, a curious ear, as well as an exquisite taste in versification; but both were of so peculiar a kind that neither the music of his numbers, nor the beauty, delicacy, and almost unearthly character of his imagery are always agreeable. The very structure of his "Ode to Evening," is so mechanical to the eye, — two long lines followed by two short ones, — that a presentiment (like an instinctive judgment in physiognomy) instantly occurs, that both thought and language must be fettered in a shape so mathematical, — wanting even the hieroglyphic recommendation of the metrical hatchets, wings, altars, and other exploded puerilities of the later Greek epigrammatists and the elder English rhymers. Collins's Ode itself is a precious specimen of mosaic work, in which the pictures are set with painful and consummate skill, but have a hard and cold effect, beyond the usual enamel of his style.