Monthly Review: "The poet introduces two Circassian shepherds, flying at midnight from their country, which the savage Tartars are supposed to have successfully invaded.... Although these Eclogues are evidently of British original, they contain many of those bold figures with which the poetry of the East abounds. The thoughts are appropriated, the images wild and local, the language correct, and the versification harmonious" Review of Oriental Eclogues,16 (June 1757) 488, 486-87.
John Scott of Amwell: "The fourth Eclogue, intitled Agib and Secander, or the Fugitives, has great merit. War, that disgrace of human nature, and source of human misery, is here painted in its proper colours; intruding on the habitations of innocence, exchanging security for terror, safety for danger, and domestick comfort for unmerited distress. Two Circassian shepherds are described flying by night from the progressive devastations of a relentless enemy" "Collins's Oriental Eclogues" in Critical Essays (1785) 178.
Walter C. Bronson: "It is clear that there was, almost from the first, a considerable demand for the Eclogues, and after a few years a steady though moderate demand for the Odes. It is also clear that some time before the close of the century Collins had already taken his position among the standard English poets, although he was not yet sufficiently distinguished from the Wartons and Whiteheads and other small fry" Poems of William Collins, ed. Walter C. Bronson (1898) xxxi.
John Langhorne's Observations:
"This beautiful but unfortunate country, where the scenes of this pathetic eclogue is laid, had been recently torn in pieces by the depredations of its savage neighbours, when Mr. Collins so affectingly described its misfortunes. This ingenious man had not only a pencil to pourtray, but a heart to feel for the miseries of mankind, and it is with the utmost tenderness and humanity he enters into the narrative of Circassia's ruin, while he realizes the scene, and brings the present drama before us. Of every circumstance that could possibly contribute to the tender effect this pastoral was designed to produce, the poet has availed himself with the utmost art and address. Thus he prepares the heart to pity the distresses of Circassia, by representing it as the scene of the happiest love: 'In fair Circassia, where, to love inclined, | Each swain was blest, for every maid was kind.' To give the circumstance of the dialogue a more affecting solemnity, he makes the time midnight, and describes the two shepherds in the very act of flight from the destruction that swept over their country: 'Sad o'er the dews, two brother shepherds fled, | Where wildering fear and desperate sorrow led.' There is a beauty and propriety in the epithet 'wildering,' which strikes us more forcibly, the more we consider it.
"The opening of the dialogue is equally happy, natural, and unaffected; when one of the shepherds, weary and overcome with the fatigue of flight, calls upon his companion to review the length of way they had passed. — This is, certainly, painting from nature, and the thoughts, however obvious, or destitute of refinement, are perfectly in character. But as the closest pursuit of nature is the surest way to excellence in general, and to sublimity in particular, in poetical description, so we find that this simple suggestion of the shepherd is not unattended with magnificence. There is a grandeur and variety in the landscape he describes: 'And first review that long extended plain, | And yon wide groves, already past with pain! | Yon ragged cliff, whose dangerous path we tried! | And, lest, this lofty mountain's weary side.' There is, in imitative harmony, an act of expressing a slow and difficult movement by adding to the usual number of pauses, in a verse. This is observable in the line that describes the ascent of the mountain: 'And last | this lofty mountain's | weary side.' Here we find the number of pauses, or musical bars, which, in an heroic verse, is commonly two, increased to three.
"The liquid melody, and the numerous sweetness of expression, in the following descriptive lines, is almost inimitably beautiful: 'Sweet to the sight is Zabran's flowery plain, | And once by nymphs and shepherds loved in vain! | No more the virgins shall delight to rove | By Sargis' banks, or Irwan's shady grove; | On Tarkie's mountain catch the cooling gale, | Or breathe the sweets of Aly's flowery vale.' Nevertheless, in this delightful landskip there is an obvious fault: there is no distinction between the plain of Zabran and the vale of Aly; they are both 'flowery,' and consequently undiversified. This could not proceed from the poet's want of judgment, but from inattention: it had not occurred to him that he had employed the epithet 'flowery' twice within so short a compass; an oversight which those who are accustomed to poetical, or, indeed, to any other species of composition, know to be very possible.
"Nothing can be more beautifully conceived, or more pathetically expressed, than the shepherd's apprehensions for his fair country-women, exposed to the ravages of the invaders: 'In vain Circassia boasts her spicy groves, | For ever famed for pure and happy loves: | In vain she boasts her fairest of the fair, | Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair! | Those eyes in tears their fruitless grief shall send; | Those hairs the Tartar's cruel hand shall rend.' There is certainly some very powerful charm in the liquid melody of sounds. The editor of these poems could never read or hear the following verse repeated, without a degree of pleasure otherwise entirely unaccountable: 'Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair.' Such are the Oriental Eclogues, which we leave with the same kind of anxious pleasure we feel upon a temporary parting with a beloved friend" Poetical Works of Mr. William Collins (1765) 127-33.
SCENE, a Mountain in Circassia. TIME, MIDNIGHT.
In fair Circassia, where, to Love inclin'd,
Each Swain was blest, for ev'ry Maid was kind;
At that still Hour, when awful Midnight reigns,
And none, but Wretches, haunt the twilight Plains;
What Time the Moon had hung her Lamp on high,
And past in Radiance, thro' the cloudless Sky:
Sad o'er the Dews, two Brother Shepherds fled,
Where wild'ring Fear and desp'rate Sorrow led.
Fast as they prest their Flight, behind them lay
Wide ravag'd Plains, and Valleys stole away.
Along the Mountain's bending Sides they ran,
Till faint and weak Secander thus began.
O stay thee, Agib, for my Feet deny,
No longer friendly to my Life, to fly.
Friend of my Heart, O turn thee and survey,
Trace our sad Flight thro' all its length of Way!
And first review that long-extended Plain,
And yon wide Groves, already past with Pain!
Yon ragged Cliff, whose dang'rous Path we try'd,
And last this lofty Mountain's weary Side!
Weak as thou art, yet hapless must thou know
The Toils of Flight, or some severer Woe!
Still as I haste, the Tartar shouts behind,
And Shrieks and Sorrows load the sad'ning Wind:
In rage of Heart, with Ruin in his Hand,
He blasts our Harvests, and deforms our Land.
Yon Citron Grove, whence first in Fear we came,
Droops its fair Honours to the conqu'ring Flame:
Far fly the Swains, like us, in deep Despair,
And leave to ruffian Bands their fleecy Care.
Unhappy Land, whose Blessings tempt the Sword,
In vain, unheard, thou call'st thy Persian Lord!
In vain thou court'st him, helpless to thine Aid,
To shield the Shepherd, and protect the Maid,
Far off in thoughtless Indolence resign'd,
Soft Dreams of Love and Pleasure sooth his Mind:
'Midst fair Sultanas lost in idle Joy,
No Wars alarm him, and no Fears annoy.
Yet these green Hills, in Summer's sultry Heat,
Have lent the Monarch oft a cool Retreat.
Sweet to the Sight is Zabran's flow'ry Plain,
And once by Maids and Shepherds lov'd in vain!
No more the Virgins shall delight to rove,
By Sargis' Banks, or Irwan's shady Grove:
On Tarkie's Mountain catch the cooling Gale,
Or breathe the Sweets of Aly's flow'ry Vale:
Fair Scenes! but, ah no more with Peace possest,
With Ease alluring, and with Plenty blest.
No more the Shepherds whit'ning Seats appear,
Nor the kind Products of a bounteous Year;
No more the Date with snowy Blossoms crown'd,
But Ruin spreads her baleful Fires around.
In vain Circassia boasts her spicy Groves,
For ever fam'd for pure and happy Loves:
In vain she boasts her fairest of the Fair,
Their Eyes' blue languish, and their golden Hair!
Those Eyes in Tears their fruitless Grief must send;
Those Hairs the Tartar's cruel Hand shall rend.
Ye Georgian Swains that piteous learn from far
Circassia's Ruin, and the Waste of War:
Some weightier Arms than Crooks and Staves prepare,
To shield your Harvests, and defend your Fair:
The Turk and Tartar like Designs pursue,
Fix'd to destroy, and stedfast to undo.
Wild as his Land, in native Deserts bred,
By Lust incited, or by Malice led,
The Villain-Arab, as he prowls for Prey,
Oft marks with Blood and wasting Flames the Way;
Yet none so cruel as the Tartar Foe,
To Death inur'd, and nurst in Scenes of Woe.
He said; when loud along the Vale was heard
A shriller Shriek, and nearer Fires appear'd:
Th' affrighted Shepherds thro' the Dews of Night,
Wide o'er the Moon-light Hills, renew'd their Flight.