1745 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Lines Addressed to a Friend about to visit Italy.]

Drafts and Fragments of Verse. [J. S. Cunningham, ed.]

William Collins


In this brief fragment William Collins mentions Edmund Spenser as an imitator of the Italian poets. In his appreciation of Italian poetry, as in so many other ways, Collins was well ahead of his time: half a century later Henry Francis Cary was unable to persuade Anna Seward of the merits of the Italian poets, and it would be later still before they became truly popular in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century.

It seems likely that the friend is Joseph Warton; compare Thomas Warton's anonymous contribution to the first edition his brother's Odes (1746), "Ode to a Gentleman upon his Travels thro' Italy."

W. J. Courthope: "William Collins was baptized in the Church of St. Peter the Great, Chichester, on the 1st of January 1721, being the son of William Collins, a prominent citizen, then mayor of the town, and Elizabeth Martin, his wife. He was admitted in 1733 as a scholar of Winchester, and in 1740 stood first in succession to New College, Joseph Warton being second on the roll; but as there was no vacancy he was entered at Queen's College, Oxford, and continued there till July 1741, when he was elected demy of Magdalen. He carried on his Winchester friendship with Joseph Warton during his Oxford life, and it appears from the evidence of Thomas Warton that Collins was so far influenced by the active intelligence of his schoolfellow as to avail himself in his Odes of several hints which Joseph had given in his own boyish exercises" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:385.

Roger Lonsdale: "The direct influence of Pope and C.'s use of couplets point to a date of composition not long after his arrival in London in 1744. There is an Ode to a Gentleman upon his Travels thro' Italy in Joseph Warton's Odes (Dec. 1746), and it is possible that C. was addressing the same person" Poems of Gray, Collins, and Goldsmith (1969) 538.



On each new scene the sons of [ ] vertu
Shall give fresh objects to thy [ ] view,
Bring the graved gem or offer as you pass
The imperial medal and historic brass.
Then o'er its narrow surface may'st thou trace
The genuine spirit of some hero's face;
Or see, minutely touched, the powerful charms
Of some proud fair that set whole realms in arms;
The patriot's story with his look compare
And know the poet by his genial air.

Nor, for they boast no pure Augustan vein,
Reject her poets with a cold disdain.
Oh, think in what sweet lays, how sweetly strong,
Our Fairfax warbles Tasso's forceful song;
How Spenser too, whose lays you oft resume,
Wove their gay [ ] in his fantastic loom;
That Cinthio prompted oft even Shakespeare's flame,
And Milton valued even Marino's name!

[Lonsdale (1969) 538-39]