1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Mr. Palmer's Recital of Collins's Ode on the Passions.

The World, Fashionable Advertiser (10 August 1787).

Robert Merry


Robert Merry's tribute to William Collins contains a number of echoes, and a particular acknowledgment of Collins's excellence as an elegiac poet: "From COLLINS was the magic lay, | That subject passions all obey. | The crowd a varying influence prove | Of Rage, and Hope, and Fear, and Love, | And still implor'd him to rehearse, | And own'd the thrilling pow'r of verse." Collins's Ode on the Passions was frequently performed, though in this case the poem seems to have been recited rather than sung. "Palmer" may be the actor John Palmer (1742?-1798) or his brother Robert (1757-1807). Merry signs himself "Della Crusca."

Anna Seward to George Hardinge: "We will remember how the genius of Collins was, while he lived, neglected and despised, till the poverty and disappointment, produced by that neglect and scorn, made a chaos of his bring, and an ice-stone of his heart. We will reflect that such contumely is no longer disgraceful to him, but shames the times in which it was inflicted; and thus the love of fame, that spur which raises the clear spirit, shall not be blunted by the fastidious disdain of any of our contemporaries. In the shelter of independence, we can smile at literary injustice, and commit our pretensions to posterity" 29 December 1786; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:243

George Dyer: "But after all, though the hero of the Baviad betrayed glitter and negligence, — though he misled the the taste of some, too much inclined to admire and to imitate defects; yet Merry's poems possess poetical merit; and the spirit of liberty and benevolence that breathes through them is ardent and sincere" The Poet's Fate, a Poetical Dialogue (1797) 29n.



Beneath a sad and silent shade,
Afflicted Poetry was laid;
The Shepherd train, the Virgin choir,
No longer listen'd to her lyre;
But all neglected and alone,
Her pathos, and her fire were gone.
No Zephyr fondly su'd her breast,
No Nightingale came there to rest;
The fading visions fled her eyes,
The visions of her extacies;
And if perchance she sought delight,
It was amid the gloom of night;
It was to hear the screech-owl's cry,
Or whistling whirlwinds rend the sky,
To pour her melancholy strain,
And catch a pleasure from the pain.
PALMER beheld her haggard air,
At twilight, as he wander'd there,
And felt the sympathetic woe
That Fate and Genius ever know.
Then eager sought the City's throng,
To vindicate the force of Song—
He chose an Ode divinely wild,
Wrote by the Muse's fav'rite child;
From COLLINS was the magic lay,
That subject passions all obey.
The crowd a varying influence prove
Of Rage, and Hope, and Fear, and Love,
And still implor'd him to rehearse,
And own'd the thrilling pow'r of verse.
O, thou sweet Bard! who now may'st be
A shadow fleeting o'er the sea,
A vapour on the morning rose,
A whisp'ring wind at evening's close;—
Or if thy spirit loves to dwell,
A while within the vi'let's bell;
Then in beatitude of change,
From star to star exulting range,
Live in the lustre of the day,
Or float upon the lunar ray;
Or rapt'rous join the hallow'd voice,
Where endless Seraphim rejoice.
O COLLINS! whatso'er thou art,
Deign, deign to bless thy PALMER'S heart,
A portion of those joys reveal,
Which sure he well deserves to feel.
Bid secret Malice blushing fly,
And Envy gorge her snakes, and die.
Bid Wealth, and Fame, and Peace, attend
His Country's, and the Muse's friend.

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