The Manners. An Ode.

Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegorical Subjects.

William Collins

William Collins takes the form of his ode from Milton's L'Allegro and adopts phrases from Spenser. "Miletus" is the author of the Milesian Tales; "Him" of the knight is Cervantes; "Him" deplored by the Gallic nymphs is Le Sage.

George Gregory: "The lyric poetry of Collins is less stately, solemn and sublime, than that of Gray, but it is more easy, natural, sweet, and interesting. Of the fine image in the first stanza of the Ode to Mercy I have already spoken. This, and the Ode to Fear, that on the Poetical Character, and The Manners, an ode, have always appeared to me th most original and interesting, though none of them can be perused by any reader of taste without real pleasure" in Letters on Literature, Taste, and Composition (1808) 2:207-08.

John Langhorne's Observations:

"From the subject and sentiments of this ode, it seems not improbable that the author wrote it about the time when he left the University; when, weary with the pursuit of academical studies, he no longer confined himself to the search of theoretical knowledge, but commenced the scholar of humanity, to study nature in her works, and man in society.

"The following farewell to science exhibits a very just as well as striking picture; for however exalted in theory the platonic doctrines may appear, it is certain that Platonism and Pyrrhonism are nearly allied: 'Farewell the porch, whose roof is seen, | Arch'd with the enlivening olive's green: | Where Science, prank'd in tissued vest, | By Reason, Pride, and Fancy drest | Comes like a bride, so trim array'd | To wed with Doubt in Plato's shade!' When the mind goes in pursuit of visionary systems, it is not far from the regions of doubt; and the greater its capacity to think abstractedly, to reason and refine, the more it will be exposed to and bewildered in uncertainty. — From an enthusiastic warmth of temper, indeed, we may for a while be encouraged to persist in some favourite doctrine, or to adhere to some adopted system; but when that enthusiasm, which is founded on the vivacity of the passions, gradually cools and dies away with them, the opinions it supported drop from us, and we are thrown upon the inhospitable shore of doubt. — A striking proof of the necessity of some moral rule of wisdom and virtue, and some system of happiness established by unerring knowledge, and unlimited power.

"In the poet's address to Humour in this ode, there is one image of singular beauty and propriety. The ornaments in the hair of 'wit' are of such a nature, and disposed in such a manner, as to be perfectly symbolical and characteristic: 'Me too amidst thy band admit, | There where the young-eyed healthful Wit, | (Whose jewels in his crisped hair | Are placed each other's beams to share, | Whom no delights from thee divide) | In laughter loosed, attends thy side.' Nothing could be more expressive of wit, which consists in a happy collision of comparative and relative images, than this reciprocal reflection of light from the disposition of the jewels. 'O Humour, thou whose name is known | To Britain's favour'd isle alone.' The author could only mean to apply this to the tune when he wrote, since other nations had produced works of great humour, as he himself acknowledges afterwards. 'By old Miletus, &c.' 'By all you taught the Tuscan maids, &c.' The Milesian and Tuscan romances were by no means distinguished for humour; but as they were the models of that species of writing in which humour was afterwards employed, they are probably for that reason only, mentioned here" Poetical Works of Mr. William Collins (1765) 174-77.

Farewell, for clearer Ken design'd,
The dim-discover'd Tracts of Mind:
Truths which, from Action's Paths retir'd,
My silent Search in vain requir'd!
No more my Sail that Deep explores,
No more I search those magic Shores,
What Regions part the World of Soul,
Or whence thy Streams, Opinion, roll:
If e'er I round such Fairy Field,
Some Pow'r impart the Spear and Shield
At which the Wizzard Passions fly,
By which the Giant Follies die!

Farewell the Porch, whose Roof is seen
Arch'd with th' enlivening Olive's Green:
Where Science, prank'd in tissued Vest,
By Reason, Pride, and Fancy drest,
Comes like a Bride so trim array'd,
To wed with Doubt in Plato's Shade!

Youth of the quick uncheated Sight,
Thy walks, Observance, more invite!
O Thou, who lov'st that ampler Range,
Where Life's wide Prospects round thee change,
And with her mingling Sons ally'd,
Throw'st the prattling Page aside:
To me in Converse sweet impart
To read in Man the native Heart,
To learn, where Science sure is found,
From Nature as she lives around:
And gazing oft her Mirror true,
By turns each shifting Image view!
Till meddling Art's officious Lore,
Reverse the Lessons taught before,
Alluring from a safer Rule
To dream in her enchanted School;
Tho' Heaven, whate'er of Great we boast,
Hast blest this social Science most.

Retiring hence to thoughtful Cell,
As Fancy breathes her potent Spell,
Not vain she finds the charmful Task,
In Pageant quaint, in motley Mask,
Behold before her musing Eyes,
The countless Manners round her rise;
While ever varying as they pass,
To some Contempt applies her Glass:
With these the white-rob'd Maids combine,
And those the laughing Satyrs join!
But who is He whom now she views,
In Robe of wild contending Hues?
Thou by the Passions nurs'd, I greet
The comic Sock that binds thy Feet!
O Humour, Thou whose Name is known,
To Britain's favoured Isle alone:
Me too amidst thy Band admit,
There where the young-eyed healthful Wit,
(Whose Jewels in his crisped Hair
Are plac'd each other's Beams to share,
Whom no Delights from Thee divide)
In Laughter loos'd attends thy Side!

By old Miletus who so long
Has ceas'd his Love-inwoven Song:
By all you taught the Tuscan Maids,
In chang'd Italia's modern Shades:
By Him, whose Knight's distinguish'd Name
Refin'd a Nation's Lust of Fame,
Whose Tales ev'n now, with Echos sweet,
Castilia's Moorish Hills repeat:
Or Him, whom Seine's blue Nymphs deplore,
In watchet Weeds on Gallia's Shore,
Who drew the sad Sicilian Maid,
By Virtues in her Sire betray'd:

O Nature boon, from whom proceed
Each forceful Thought, each prompted Deed;
If but from Thee I hope to feel,
On all my Heart imprint thy Seal!
Let some retreating Cynic find
Those oft-turn'd Scrolls I leave behind:
The Sports and I this Hour agree
To rove thy Scene-full World with Thee!

[pp. 41-45]