The Shade of Collins. An Ode.

Morning Chronicle (3 October 1801).

Leigh Hunt

An allegorical ode in ten ten-line stanzas signed "J. H. L. Hunt, Sept. 24, 1801." The concept of the poem is imitated from Collins's Ode on the Passions, though young Leigh Hunt (he would have been sixteen when the poem was submitted) manages to pack in allusions to most of Collins's best-known poems. The stanza is that of Gray's Eton College Ode. Leigh Hunt's verses had been appearing regularly in the Morning Chronicle at this time.

Author's note: "It will be remembered that Collins some time before his death was confined in a private mad-house."

Leigh Hunt to the editor of the Poetical Register: "Sir, I have to inform you that there is one piece you have published in the Morning Chronicle, 'The Shade of Collins,' all the rest without marks are original. If it is no intrusion on your time, I would beg your examination (for their insertion) of the two enclosed pieces.... You will perceive, Sir, that I have sent you Ode, Epistle, Epitaph, Epigram, sentimental Song, Sonnet, and Translation; to make this heterogeneous collection more complete, I would add a Pindaric, and an Anacreontic Song" 8 March 1802; in Brewer, My Leigh Hunt Library ... Letters (1938) 3.

Joseph Dennie: "In the course of my inquiries, respecting Mr. Hunt, whom I have so often quoted and commended, I have had the good fortune and delight, to obtain a few productions of his maturer muse. The following ode had been published, in an elegant miscellany, since the appearance of his Juvenilia" Port Folio [Philadelphia] 3 (18 June 1803) 193.

Leigh Hunt describes his reading at Christ's Hospital: "In those times, Cooke's edition of the British poets came up. I had got an odd volume of Spenser; and I fell passionately in love with Collins and Gray. How I loved those little sixpenny numbers containing whole poets! I doated on their size; I doated on their type, on their ornaments, on their wrappers containing lists of other poets, and on the engravings from Kirk. I bought them over and over again, and used to get up select sets, which disappeared like buttered crumpets; for I could resist neither giving them away, nor possessing them. When the master tormented me, when I used to hate and loathe the sight of Homer, and Demosthenes, and Cicero, I would comfort myself with thinking of the sixpence in my pocket, with which I should go out to Paternoster-row, when the school was over, and buy another number of an English Poet" Autobiography (1850) 1:92.

Who shall awake with magic song
The wildly-throbbing soul?
Who dart the Muse's light along,
And bid her thunders roll?
Or who with strain of gentlest note
In low and liquid warblings float,
Soft stealing thro' the silent air,
While PITY breathes her mildest lay,
And from her eye's Aprilian ray,
Slow drops a quivering tear?

Rude MADNESS, idiot King of Power,
Who from the Muse's breast
Tore him that in her sacred bower
She knew and lov'd the best;
Stare not in gloomy silence more,
Rage all thy storms of passion o'er,
And weave the wildrings of the soul:
Pale COLLINS dropt his sacred lyre;
He saw thy frenzied orbs of fire,
Thy meteor eyeballs roll!

SUBLIMITY'S enraptur'd child,
Say, whither art thou fled?
Gone to awake with music wild
The slumbers of the dead?
Or dost thou still, O tearful Bard,
Lorn MELANCHOLY'S wand'rings guard
In some remote and solemn grove;
With dewy garlands deck the grave,
Where FREEDOM lulls her hapless brave,
Or dress the tomb of Love?

Lorn tearful Bard, whose wild-wove lay
Each thrilling Passion sung;
When Music now soft died away,
Now wild and warlike rung;
I see, I see thy solemn shade
Quick starting from yon haunted glade
With tresses tost, and eyes that weep;
High o'er the gulf screams danger loud,
And FEAR on phantoms wrapt in cloud
Howls dreadfully and deep!

Fell ANGER with his clenching hand
Rude dashes on the lyre;
Wild throws it on the trembling land,
And grasps his torch of fire!
Look, look no more — In murm'ring low
I hear the sigh of anguish flow!
Sad JEALOUSY, away: — 'tis thine!
Thy hollow smile and fitful sob
Too wildly bid my bosom throb;
I do not call thee mine!—

Hark! 'Tis REVENGE, while thunders peal,
With blast of threat'ning breath,
Calls on the fiends that darkling deal
The hidden point of Death!
Fierce as he winds the stormy strain,
Rise visages that writhe with pain,
And hands the purple steel that grasp;
At each dread pause wild groans DESPAIR,
And dying PITY on the air
Slow heaves a ling'ring gasp!

But sounds arise more soft and sweet,
Melodiously forlorn;
They breathe thro' yonder green retreat
Ye glades, repeat the soothing sound—
Ye runnets, steal in warblings round.
From yonder gloom bright visions break!
See, HOPE her golden tresses wave,
And JOY, whose songs contentment gave,
The smiling Morn awake!

Soul-soothing Bard, in what bright sphere
Now breathes thy sacred Lyre?
What Angel-youths enraptur'd hear;
What heavenly Themes inspire?
Thy hand no more sublimely flings
Empassion'd Horror on its strings—
Deep and majestically wild;
Peace breathes thro' every softer Lay,
And INSPIRATION'S gentlest ray
Plays round his warbling Child!

Farewel, sweet Bard — thy grave around
Shall still with flow'rs be dress'd,
While SYMPATHY and LOVE be found,
To warm the human breast!
There TRUTH and FRIENDSHIP, hand in hand,
Shall dew with tears the blooming land,
And scatter wreaths of ev'ry hue!
Still, as she goes, the Muse would stay,
Still seems to hear thy thrilling lay,
And weeps a last adieu!