1745
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to a Lady, on the Death of Col. Charles Ross, in the Action of Fontenoy. Written May, 1745.

The Museum: or the Literary and Historical Register 1 (7 June 1746) 215-17.

William Collins


An elegy for a young Scot killed at the battle of Fontenoy, not signed. "Ode to a Lady" has a particularly complicated textual history. In addition to other changes, William Collins later added two stanzas (ll. 37-48) that appear in Odes (1746), they were later removed when the poem was republished in Dodsley's Collection of Poems. Collins's Ode was imitated in an elegy for Alexander Hamilton, "Tears of Columbia" in The Balance and Columbian Repository 3 (21 August 1804) 272.

Horace Walpole to Horace Mann: "By the letters arrived to-day, we find that Tournay still holds out. There are certainly killed Sir James Campbell, General Posonby, Colonel Carpenter, Colonel Douglas, young Ross, Colonel Montagu, Gee, Berkeley, and Kellet. Mr. Vanbrugh is since dead. Most of the young men of quality in the Guards are wounded. I have had the vast fortune to have nobody hurt, for whom I was in the least interested" 11 May 1745 in Letters, ed. Cunningham (1906) 1:352.

Thomas Warton: "I have seen all his Odes already published in his own hand-writing; they had the marks of repeated correction; he was perpetually changing his epithets. I had lately his first manuscript of the Ode on the Death of Colonel Ross, with many interlineations and alterations. The lady to whom this Ode is addressed was Miss Elizabeth Goddard, who then lived at or near Harting, in Sussex. In the first stanza, my manuscript has 'sunk in grief,' for 'stained with blood.' The fourth stanza stood thus: 'Ev'n now, regardless of his doom, | Applauding honour haunts his tomb, | With shadowy trophies crown'd: | While freedom's form beside her roves, | Majestic; through the twilight groves, | And calls her heroes round.' The sixth stanza had 'untaught' in the first line, instead of 'unknown.' The present seventh and eighth stanzas were not in the manuscript. In the present ninth stanza, instead of, 'If weak to soothe so soft a heart,' the reading was, 'If drawn by all a lover's art.' Many variations I have forgotten" The Gleaner (1811) 4:477.

John Langhorne's Observations:

"The iambic kind of numbers in which this ode is conceived, seems as well calculated for tender and plaintive subjects, as for those where strength or rapidity is required. — This, perhaps, is owing to the repetition of the strain in the same stanza; for sorrow rejects variety, and affects a uniformity of complaint. It is needless to observe that this ode is replete with harmony, spirit, and pathos; and there surely appears no reason why the seventh and eighth stanzas should be omitted in that copy printed in Dodsley's collection of poems" Poetical Works of Mr. William Collins (1765) 167.



I.
While, lost to all his former Mirth,
Britannia's Genius bends to Earth,
And mourns the fatal Day;
While, stained with Blood, he strives to tear
Unseemly from his Sea-green Hair
The Wreaths of chearful May;

II.
The Thoughts which musing Pity pays,
And fond Remembrance loves to raise,
Your faithful Hours attend;
Still Fancy, to herself unkind,
Awakes to Grief the soften'd Mind,
And points the bleeding Friend.

III.
By rapid Scheldt's descending Wave,
His Country's Vows shall bless the Grave,
Where'er the Youth is laid:
That sacred Spot the Village Hind
With every sweetest Turf shall bind,
And Peace protect the Shade.

IV.
Ev'n now, regardful of thy Doom,
Applauding Honour haunts his Tomb,
With shadowy Trophies crown'd:
Whilst Freedom's Form beside her roves
Majestic thro' the twilight Groves,
And calls her Heroes round.

V.
The warlike Dead of ev'ry Age,
Who fill the fair recording Page,
Shall leave their sainted Rest:
And half-reclining on his Spear,
Each wond'ring Chief by turns appear
To hail the blooming Guest.

VI.
Old Edward's sons, unknown to yield,
Shall croud from Cressy's laurell'd Field,
And gaze with fix'd Delight:
Again for Britain's Wrongs they feel,
Again they snatch the gleamy Steel,
And wish th' avenging Fight.

VII.
If, weak to sooth so soft a Heart,
These pictur'd Glories nought impart
To dry thy constant Tear;
If yet in Sorrow's distant Eye,
Expos'd and pale thou seest him lie,
Wild War insulting near:

VIII.
Where'er from Time Thou court'st Relief,
The Muse shall still with social Grief
Her gentlest Promise keep:
Even humble H—'s cottag'd Vale
Shall learn the sad repeated Tale,
And bid her Shepherds weep.

[pp. 215-17]