The antiquary Nathan Drake concludes the last of his several volumes of essays — a series begun nearly four decades earlier — with an attempt to complete a fragment of verse by William Collins.
Headnote: "In a letter from the late laureate, Thomas Warton, to Wm. Hymers, A.B. of Queen's College, Oxford, that accomplished scholar relates, that on a visit to Collins at Chichester, with his brother, Dr. Joseph Warton, in Sept. 1754, the lamented poet, after showing them his 'published Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, produced another 'of two or three four-lined stanzas, called the Bell of Arragon; on a tradition that, anciently, just before a king of Spain died, the great bell of the cathedral of Saragossa, in Arragon, tolled spontaneously. It began thus: 'The bell of Arragon, they say, | Spontaneous speaks the fatal day,' &c. Soon afterwards were these lines: — 'Whatever dark aerial power, | Commissioned, haunts the gloomy tower.' The last stanza consisted of a moral transition to his own death and knell, which he called 'some simpler bell.'' This letter, which was originally published in a periodical work entitled The Reaper, I have reprinted in the last number of the selection which I gave the public in 1811, under the appellation of The Gleaner, adding, as a note at the close of that paper, the following remarks: 'Of this exquisite poet, who in his genius, and in his personal fate, bears a strong resemblance to the celebrated Tasso, it is greatly to be regretted that the reliques are so few. I must particularly lament the loss of the ode entitled The Bell of Arragon, which, from the four lines preserved in this paper, seems to have been written with the poet's wonted power of imagination, and to have closed in a manner strikingly moral and pathetic. I rather wonder that Mr. Warton, who partook much of the romantic bias of Collins, was not induced to fill up the impressive outline.' I have only to express a hope that what is now offered, with a view of supplying the defect, may be deemed not altogether unaccordant with the character of the poetry which it aims to emulate" 2:335-37.
The bell of Arragon, they say,
Spontaneous speaks the fatal day
When, as its tones peal wild and high,
Iberia's kings are doom'd to die.
Whatever dark aerial power
Commissioned, haunts the gloomy tower,
So deep the spell, each starts with fear
That strange unearthly sound to hear.
O'er me, when death his arm hath flung,
May no such awful knell be rung;
But, breathing mild a last farewell,
Toll sad, yet sweet, some simpler bell!