Roger Lonsdale's edition (1969) notes echoes of Faerie Queene and Britannia's Pastorals. While it seems unlike that Collins would have read Browne of Tavistock while at Winchester School, he certainly would have known his works as a student at Oxford.
John Scott of Amwell: "The second of these little Pieces, called Hassan, or the Camel Driver, is of superior character. This Poem contradicts history in one particular instance; the merchants of the east travel in numerous caravans, but Hassan is introduced travelling alone in the desart. But this circumstance detracts little from our Author's merit; adherence to historical fact is seldom required in poetry, and there are few, even of the best compositions, in which it is not more or less violated. Hassan, struck with a sudden and forcible impression of the inconveniences he suffers, and the perils he expects, describes them both, reproaches his own avarice which prompted him to risque them for the sake of gain; and reflecting on the supposed anxiety of a beloved fair-one, whom he had left, determines to return. The opening of the Eclogue paints solitary distress and danger in a manner that it were perhaps impossible to exceed" "Collins's Oriental Eclogues" in Critical Essays (1785) 163-64.
European Magazine: "The eclogues of Spenser, of Pope, and of Phillips, are continually mentioned; but where do we find the name of Drayton? — Collins and Drayton are the only English poets who have written eclogues that will bear perusal: Spenser is not himself when he touches the crook" 10 (September 1786) 153-43.
Richard Foster Jones: "Like most of the other varieties this one ["foreign eclogues"] can be traced directly back to one source, William Collins, whose Persian Eclogues, 1742, won instant popularity. These poems, four in number, are cast in the strict dramatic form with phrases at the beginning giving the time and place of each. 'Selim; or The Shepherd's Moral. Scene, A Valley near Bagdat. Time. The Morning'; 'Hassan; or, The Camel Driver. Scene, The Desert. Time. Mid-day'; 'Abra, or, The Georgian Sultana. Scene, A Forest. Time, The evening'; 'Agib and Secander; or, The Fugitives. Scene, A mountain in Circassia. Time, Midnight.' The first and third of these poems, being purely conventional, require no comment except to note their obvious moral purpose. Since the last established a distinct variety of the foreign eclogue [the "war eclogue"], it will be treated later. The second eclogue, however, reveals the peculiar nature of the type and emphasizes how far it departed from the authentic pastoral. It gives us a picture of a camel-driver, suffering hardships in the desert and lamenting his departure from Bagdad. Certainly this is so far removed in content and mood from the genuine bucolic that unless we identify pastoral with descriptive poetry, it can in no way be considered a pastoral. As soon as the scene of an eclogue was transferred to a foreign country, the characteristic details of that country were naturally suggested, even though it was with the haziness with which the romantic imagination invests the remote" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 51-52.
Oliver Elton: "The Eclogues are not much more Persian, or 'oriental,' than the Vision of Mirzah [by Joseph Addison], and have little enough poetic thought behind them. Yet in their easy couplets we catch a new, a soft and musical ripple, which reminds us of Goldsmith. The sharp edges of the heroic measure are softened away, as they had been, long before, in Parnell's Hermit" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 2:46.
Edmund Blunden: "The pastorals of Pope, Parnell, and Lyttelton seem to have moved Collins at this early period. The 'painted fan' of Hassan was probably found by him in the Faerie Queene (III, xii, st. 8), and in the fourth Eclogue he charmingly varies a line from Pope's Iliad (xviii, 50), 'And the blue languish of soft Alia's eye.' In turn, Collins's Eclogues hinted to Chatterton his African Eclogues. When Chatterton wrote 'Let me like midnight Cats, or Collins sing,' he was not rewarding evil for good; he was aiming at a very different poet, Emanuel Collins of Bristol" Poems of Collins (1929) 161.
A Latin translation was published in the Morning Chronicle for 18 October 1780.
John Langhorne's Observations:
"All the advantages that any species of poetry can derive from the novelty of the subject and scenery, this eclogue possesses. The route of a camel-driver is a scene that scarce could exist in the imagination of a European, and of its attendant distresses he could have no idea. — These are very happily and minutely painted by our descriptive poet. What sublime simplicity of expression! what nervous plainness in the opening of the poem! 'In silent horror o'er the boundless waste | The driver Hassan with his camels past.' The magic pencil of the poet brings the whole scene before us at once, as it were by enchantment; and in this single couplet we feel all the effect that arises from the terrible wildness of a region unenlivened by the habitations of men. The verses that describe so minutely the camel-driver's little provisions have a touching influence on the imagination, and prepare the reader to enter more feelingly into his future apprehensions of distress: 'Bethink thee, Hassan, where shall thirst assuage, | When fails this cruise, his unrelenting rage!' It is difficult to say whether his apostrophe to the 'mute companions of his toils,' is more to be admired for the elegance and beauty of the poetical imagery, or for the tenderness and humanity of the sentiment. He who can read it without being affected, will do his heart no injustice if he concludes it to be destitute of sensibility: 'Ye mute companions of my toils, that bear | In all my griefs a more than equal share! | Here, where no springs in murmurs break away, | Or moss-crown'd 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.' Yet in these beautiful lines there is a slight error, which writers of the greatest genius very frequently fall into. — It will be needless to observe to the accurate reader, that in the fifth and sixth verses there is a verbal pleonasm where the poet speaks of the 'green' delights of 'verdant' vales. There is an oversight of the same kind in the Manners, an Ode, where the poet says, — 'Seine's blue nymphs deplore | In watchet weeds'—. This fault is indeed a common one, but to a reader of taste it is nevertheless disgustful; and it is mentioned here, as the error of a man of genius and judgment, that men of genius and judgment may guard against it.
"Mr. Collins speaks like a true Poet as well in sentiment as expression, when, with regard to the Thirst of wealth, he says, 'Why heed we not, while mad we haste along, | The gentle voice of Peace, or Pleasure's song? | Or wherefore think the flowery mountain's side, | The fountain's murmurs, and the valley's pride, | Why think we these less pleasing to behold, | Than dreary deserts, if they lead to gold?' But however just these sentiments may appear to those who have not revolted from nature and simplicity, had the author proclaimed them in Lombard-street, or Cheapside, he would not have been complimented with the understanding of the bellman. — A striking proof, that our own particular ideas of happiness regulate our opinions concerning the sense and wisdom of others!
"It is impossible to take leave of this most beautiful eclogue, without paying the tribute of admiration so justly due to the following nervous lines: 'What if the lion in his rage I meet!— | Oft in the dust I view his printed feet: | And, fearful! oft, when day's declining light | Yields her pale empire to the mourner night, | By hunger roused, he scours groaning plain, | Gaunt wolves and sullen tigers in his train: | Before them death with shrieks directs their way, | Fills the wild yell, and leads them to their prey.' This, amongst many other passages to be met with in the writings of Collins, shows that his genius was perfectly capable of the grand and magnificent in description, notwithstanding what a learned writer has advanced to the contrary. Nothing, certainly, could be more greatly conceived, or more adequately expressed, than the image in the last couplet.
"That deception, sometimes used in rhetoric and poetry, which presents us with an object or sentiment contrary to what we expected, is here introduced to the greatest advantage: 'Farewell the youth, whom sighs could not detain, | Whom Zara's breaking heart implored in vain! | Yet, as thou go'st, may every blast arise— | Weak and unfelt as these rejected sighs!' But this, perhaps, is rather an artificial prettiness, than a real, or natural beauty" Poetical Works of Mr. William Collins (1765) 118-24.
SCENE, the Desart. TIME, MID-DAY.
In silent Horror o'er the Desart-Waste
The Driver Hassan with his Camels past.
One Cruise 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.
Ah! little thought I of the blasting Wind,
The Thirst or pinching Hunger that I find!
Rethink thee, Hassan, where shall Thirst assuage,
When fails this Cruise, his unrelenting Rage?
Soon shall this Scrip its precious Load resign,
Then what but Tears and Hunger shall be thine?
Ye mute Companions of my Toils, that bear
In all my Griefs a more than equal Share!
Here, where no Springs in Murmurs break away,
Or Moss-crown'd 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.
Sad was the Hour, &c.
Curst be the Gold and Silver which persuade
Weak Men to follow far-fatiguing Trade.
The Lilly-Peace outshines the silver Store,
And Life is dearer than the golden Ore.
Yet Money tempts us o'er the Desart brown,
To ev'ry distant Mart, and wealthy Town:
Full oft we tempt the Land, and oft the Sea,
And are we only yet repay'd by Thee?
Ah! why was Ruin so attractive made,
Or why fond Man so easily betray'd?
Why heed we not, whilst mad we haste along,
The gentle Voice of Peace, or Pleasure's Song?
Or wherefore think the flow'ry Mountain's Side,
The Fountain's Murmurs, and the Valley's Pride,
Why think we these less pleasing to behold,
Than dreary Desarts, if they lead to Gold?
Sad was the Hour, &c.
O cease, my Fears! all frantic as I go,
When Thought creates unnumber'd Scenes of Woe,
What if the Lion in his Rage I meet!
Oft in the Dust I view his printed Feet:
And fearful! oft, when Day's declining Light
Yields her pale Empire to the Mourner Night,
By Hunger rous'd, he scours the groaning Plain,
Gaunt Wolves and sullen Tygers in his Train:
Before them Death with Shrieks directs their Way,
Fills the wild Yell, and leads them to their Prey.
Sad was the Hour, &c.
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.
Sad was the Hour, &c.
O hapless Youth! for she thy Love hath won,
The tender Zara, will be most undone!
Big swell'd my Heart, and own'd the pow'rful Maid,
When fast she dropt her Tears, as thus she said;
"Farewel the Youth whom Sighs could not detain,
Whom Zara's breaking Heart implor'd in vain;
Yet as thou go'st, may ev'ry Blast arise,
Weak and unfelt as these rejected Sighs!
Safe o'er the Wild, no Perils mayst thou see,
No Griefs endure, nor weep, false Youth, like me."
O let me safely to the Fair return,
Say with a Kiss, she must not, shall not mourn.
Go teach my Heart to lose its painful Tears,
Recall'd by Wisdom's Voice, and Zara's Tears.
He said, and call'd on Heav'n to bless the Day,
When back to Schiraz' Walls he bent his Way.