1810
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Miss Smith's Recital of Collins's Ode on the Passions.

Walker's Hibernian Magazine (February 1810) 90.

Anonymous


An allegorical ode celebrated Miss Smith's performance "At the Theatre Royal" in Dublin. The poem opens with an imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso (or possibly Collins's Ode on the Poetical Character) with the afflicted Muse wandering forlorn in a gloomy landscape. There she is encountered by Miss Smith, who apparently was looking for material: "She chose an ode divinely wild, | Wrote by the muse's favourite child; | From COLLINS was the magic lay, | That subject passions all obey." The second half of the poem redacts Collins's poem, concluding with a tender elegy for Collins. The poem is not signed. The Hibernian Magazine, whose better days were long past, would cease publication in 1811.

The opening lines of this poem are taken from Susanna Blamire's "On Collins's Ode on the Passions, as recited by Mrs. Esten" composed before 1796, and posthumously published in 1842 in Blamire's Poetical Works: "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 feeling and her fire were gone. | No zephyr fondly sued her breast, | No nightingale came there to rest" (1842) 125. I have not located an earlier publication of the Blamire poem, though it is apparent that a number of her songs were circulating in manuscript.



Beneath a sad and silent shade,
The poor afflicted muse was laid;
The shepherd train, the virgin choir,
No longer listened to the lyre,
But sad, neglected, and alone,
Her feeling and her fire were gone;
Nor more she wanders forth in taste,
The beauties of the flowery waste,
Nor flutters more on wanton wing,
Nor leaves her in yon lucid spring;
Nor wooes with undisturbed delight,
The pale cheeked virgin of the night,
That piercing thro' the leafy bower,
Throws on the ground a slivery shower.
No rapture swells the linnet's voice,
No more the vocal groves rejoice;
And e'en thy song, sweet bird of Eve,
With whom she loved so oft to grieve,
Now scarce regarded meets the ear,
Nor more extracts the pearly tear.
Yet if, perchance, she she sought delight,
'Twas 'midst the deepest glooms of night;
To hear the wailing screech-owl's cry,
Or whistling whirlwinds rend the sky,
Or pacing o'er the mouldering wall,
Of some lone abbey's Gothick hall,
To pour her sadly melting strain,
And catch a pleasure from the pain.
Fair Smith beheld her haggard air,
At twilight as she wandered there,
And felt the sympathetic woe,
Which taste and genius ever know.
Eager she sought the listening throng,
To vindicate the force of song:
She chose an ode divinely wild,
Wrote by the muse's favourite child;
From COLLINS was the magic lay,
That subject passions all obey;
While she before th' attentive crowd,
Breathed the magic notes aloud;
Now sublimest triumph swelling,
Now on Love and Mercy dwelling,
Here Vengeance in the lucid air,
Lifts his red arm expos'd and bare:
On whom the ravening brood of fate,
Who lap the blood of sorrow wait.
Soft Pity next the poet drew,
In sky-worn robes of tenderest blue;
Pity, whose myrtle wand can steep,
E'en Anger's blood-shot eyes in sleep:
Before whose breathing bosom's balm,
Rage drops his steel, and storms grow calm;
Next gelid Fear, with eyes stretch'd wide,
Marks the mysterious spectre glide:
And as he stalks the haunted hall,
He flagging hears the phantom's call.
Anger, whose limbs of giant mould,
No mortal eye can fixed behold;
Next stalks his round, a hideous form,
Howling amidst the midnight storm;
And shrouds him in the haunted cell,
Where gloomy rage and murder dwell.
Next Love advanc'd, and joy and wonder,
Listening the deep applauding thunder;
And all the shadowy tribes of mind,
In braided dance their murmurs join'd;
And all the bright, uncounted powers,
Who feed on heaven's ambrosial flowers:
The crowd a varying influence prove,
Of rage, and hope, and fear, and love;
And bade the gentle maid rehearse,
And own'd the thrilling powers of verse.
O thou sweet bard! who now mayest be,
A shadow fleeting o'er the sea,
A vapour on the morning rose,
A whispering wind at evening's close:
Or if thy spirit love to dwell,
Awhile within the violet'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 rapturous join the hallow'd voice,
Where endless seraphim rejoice.
O! COLLINS! whatso'er thou art,
To SMITH thy richest gifts impart!
A portion of those joys reveal,
Which sure she well deserves to feel.
Bid secret Malice blushing fly,
And Envy gorge her snakes and die;
Bid fortune's proudest gifts attend,
And fame, and joy, "the Muse's friend."

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