Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is difficult to say whether his apostrophe to the "mute companions of his toils" is more to be admired for the elegance and beauty of the poetical imagery, or for the tenderness and humanity of the sentiment. He who can read it without being affected, will do his heart no injustice, if he concludes it to be destitute of sensibility.

"Ye mute companions of my toils, that bear
In all my griefs a more than equal share!
Here, where no springs in murmurs break away,
Or moss-crown'd fountains mitigate the day,
In vain ye hope the green delights to know,
Which plains more blest, or verdant vales, bestow :
Here rocks alone and tasteless sands are found,
And faint and sickly winds for ever howl around.”

Yet in these beautiful lines there is a slight error, which writers of the greatest genius very frequently fall into. It will be needless to observe to the accurate reader, that in the fifth and sixth verses there is a verbal pleonism where the poet speaks of the green delights of verdant vales. There is an oversight of the same kind in the Manners, an Ode; where the poet says

[ocr errors]

Seine's blue nymphs deplore

In watchet weeds"

This fault is indeed a common one, but to a reader of taste it is nevertheless disgustful; and it is mentioned here as the error of a man of genius and judgment, that men of genius and judgment may guard against it. Mr. Collins speaks like a true poet, as well in sentiment as expression, when, with regard to the thirst of wealth, he says,

"Why heed we not, while mad we haste along,

The gentle voice of Peace, or Pleasure's song?

Or wherefore think the flowery mountain's side,
The fountain's murmurs, and the valley's pride,
Why think we these less pleasing to behold,
Than dreary deserts, if they lead to gold?"

But however just these sentiments may appear to those who have not revolted from nature and simplicity, had the author proclaimed them in Lombard-street, or Cheapside, he would not have been complimented with the understanding of the bell-man.-A striking proof, that our own particular ideas of happiness regulate our opinions concerning the sense and wisdom of others!

It is impossible to take leave of this most beautiful eclogue, without paying the tribute of admiration so justly due to the following nervous lines:

[ocr errors]

"What if the lion in his rage I meet!

Oft in the dust I view his printed feet:

And, fearful! oft, when day's declining light
Yields her pale empire to the mourner night,
By hunger rous'd, he scours the groaning plain,
Gaunt wolves and sullen tigers in his train:
Before them death with shrieks directs their way,
Fills the wild yell, and leads them to their prey."

This, amongst many other passages to be met with in the writings of Collins, shows that his genius was perfectly capable of the grand and magnificent in description, notwithstanding what a learned writer has advanced to the contrary. Nothing, certainly, could be more greatly conceived, or more adequately expressed, than the image in the last couplet.

That deception, sometimes used in rhetoric and poetry, which presents us with an object or sentiment

contrary to what we expected, is here introduced to the greatest advantage:

"Farewell the youth, whom sighs could not detain,
Whom Zara's breaking heart implor'd in vain!

Yet, as thou go'st, may every blast arise
Weak and unfelt as these rejected sighs!"

But this, perhaps, is rather an artificial prettiness, than a real or natural beauty.

ECLOGUE III.

THAT innocent and native simplicity of manners, which, in the first eclogue, was allowed to constitute the happiness of love, is here beautifully described in its effects. The sultan of Persia marries a Georgian shepherdess, and finds in her embraces that genuine felicity which unperverted nature alone can bestow. The most natural and beautiful parts of this eclogue are those where the fair sultana refers with so much pleasure to her pastoral amusements, and those scenes of happy innocence in which she passed her early years; particularly when, upon her first departure,

"Oft as she went, she backward turn'd her view,
And bade that crook and bleating flock adieu."

This picture of amiable simplicity reminds one of that passage, where Proserpine, when carried off by Pluto, regrets the loss of the flowers she has been gathering.

[ocr errors]

"Collecti flores tunicis cecidere remissis:
Tantaque simplicitas puerilibus adfuit annis,

Hæc quoque virginium movit jactura dolorem."

ECLOGUE IV.

THE HE beautiful, but unfortunate country, where the scene of this pathetic eclogue is laid, had been recently torn in pieces by the depredations of its savage neighbours, when Mr. Collins so affectingly described its misfortunes. This ingenious man had not only a pencil to pourtray, but a heart to feel for the miseries of mankind; and it is with the utmost tenderness and humanity he enters into the narrative of Circassia's ruin, while he realizes the scene, and brings the present drama before us. Of every circumstance that could possibly contribute to the tender effect this pastoral was designed to produce, the poet has availed himself with the utmost art and address. Thus he prepares the heart to pity the distresses of Circassia, by representing it as the scene of the happiest love.

"In fair Circassia, where, to love inclin'd,

Each swain was blest, for every maid was kind."

To give the circumstance of the dialogue a more affecting solemnity, he makes the time midnight, and describes the two shepherds in the very act of flight from the destruction that swept over their country:

"Sad o'er the dews, two brother shepherds fled,
Where wildering fear and desperate sorrow led."

There is a beauty and propriety in the epithet wildering, which strikes us more forcibly, the more we consider it.

The opening of the dialogue is equally happy, natural, and unaffected; when one of the shepherds, weary and overcome with the fatigue of flight, calls

upon his companion to review the length of way they had passed. This is certainly painting from nature, and the thoughts, however obvious, or destitute of refinement, are perfectly in character. But, as the closest pursuit of nature is the surest way to excellence in general, and to sublimity in particular, in poetical description, so we find that this simple suggestion of the shepherd is not unattended with magnificence. There is a grandeur and variety in the landscape he describes :

"And first review that long-extended plain,

And yon wide groves, already past with pain!
Yon ragged cliff, whose dangerous path we try❜d!
And, last, this lofty mountain's weary side!"

There is, in imitative harmony, an act of expressing a slow and difficult movement by adding to the usual number of pauses in a verse. This is observable in the line that describes the ascent of the mountain:

And last this lofty mountain's || weary side ||.

Here we find the number of pauses, or musical bars, which, in an heroic verse, is commonly two, increased to three.

The liquid melody, and the numerous sweetness of expression in the following descriptive lines is almost inimitably beautiful:

" Sweet to the sight is Zabran's flowery plain,
And once by nymphs and shepherds lov'd in vain!
No more the virgins shall delight to rove
By Sargis' banks, or Irwan's shady grove;
On Tarkie's mountain catch the cooling gale,
Or breathe the sweets of Aly's flowery vale."

« PreviousContinue »