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The scenery and subjects then of the following eclogues alone are oriental; the style and colour are purely European ; and, for this reason, the author's preface, in which he intimates that he had the originals from a merchant who traded to the East, is omit ted, as being now altogether fuperfluous.
With regard to the merit of these eclogues, it may juftly be asserted, that in simpli city of description and expression, in delicacy and softness of numbers, and in natural and unaffected tenderness, they are not to be equalled by any thing of the pastoral kind in the English language.
E CL OG U U E
THIS eclogue, which is entitled Selim, or the Shepherd's Moral, as there is nothing dramatic in the subject, may be thought the least entertaining of the four: but it is by no means the least valuable. The moral precepts which the intelligent shep herd delivers to his fellow-fwains and the virgins, their companions, are such as would infallibly promote the happpiness of the paftoral life.
In personating the private virtues, the poet has observed great propriety, and has formed their genealogy with the most perfect judgment, when he represents them as the daughters of Truth and Wisdom. The characteristics of Modesty and Chastity are extremely happy and peinturesque :
“ Come thou whose thoughts as limpid springs are clear,
A filken veil conceals her from the view." The two fimilies borrowed from rural objects are not only much in character, but per fectly natural and expressive. There is, notwithstanding, this defect in the former, that it wants a peculiar propriety; for purity of thought may as well be applied to Chastity as to Modefty; and from this instance, as well as from a thousand more, we may fee the necessity of diftinguishing, in characteristic poetry, every object by marks and attributes peculiarly its own.
It cannot be objected to this eclogue, that it wants both those essential criteria of the paftoral, love and the drama ; for though it partakes not of the latter, the former ftill retains an interest in it, and that too very material, as it professedly consults the virtue and happiness of the lover, while it informs what are the qualities
that must lead to love.
ALL the advantages that any species of poetry can derive from the novelty of the fubject and scenery, this eclogue poffeffes. The rout of a camel-driver is a scene that scarce could exist in the imagination of an European, and of its attendant distresses he could have no idea.—These are very happily and minutely painted by our descriptive poet. What sublime fimplicity of expreffion! what nervous plainness in the opening of the poem!
“ In filent horror o'er the boundless waste
The driver Hassan with his camels past.” The magic pencil of the poet brings the whole scene before us at once, as it weré by enchantment, and in this single couplet we feel all the effect that arises from the terrible wildness of a region unenlivened by the habitations of men. The verses that deIcribe so minutely the camel-driver's little provifions, have a touching influence on the
imagination, and prepare the reader to enter more feelingly into his future apprehenfi. ons of distress :
" Bethink thee, Haffan, where shall Thirst afruage,
When fails this cruise, his unrelenting rage!" 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
And faint and fickly winds for ever howl around.” Yet in these beautiful lines there is a flight 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 fixth verses there is a verbal pleonasm where the poet speaks of the green delights of verdant vales. There is an oversight of the same kind in the ManHers, an Ode; where the poet says
" — Seine’s blue nymphs deplore
In watchet weeds This fault is indeed a common one, but to a reader of taste it is nevertheless disguftful; 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 thirft of wealth, he fays,
Why heed we not, while mad we hafte along,
Than dreary deserts, if they lead to gold?" But however juft these sentiments may appear to those who have not revolted froma nature and fimplicity, had the author proclaimed them in Lombard-ftreet, or Cheapfide, he would not have been complimented with the understanding of the bellman. A striking proof, that our own particular ideas of happiness regulate our opinions concerning the sense and wisdom of others!
It is impoffible to take leave of this most beautiful eclogue, without paying the wribute of admiration so juftly due to the following nervous lines. " What if the lion in his
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, shews that his genius was perfectly capable of the grand and magnificent in description, not
withstanding 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 laft couplet.
That deception, sometimes ufed in rhetoric and poetry, which presents us with an obje&t or sentiment contrary to what we expected, is here introduced to the greatest advantage :
Farewel the youth, whom fighs could not detain,
Weak and unfelt as these rejected sighs!
THAT innocent and native fimplicity 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 beftow. The most natural and beautiful parts of this eclogue are those where the fair fultana refers with so much pleasure to her paftoral amusements, and those scenes of happy innocence in which she had passed her early years; particularly when, upon her first departure,
“ Of as she went, she backward turn'd her view,
And bade that crook and bleating flock adieu." This picture of amiable fimplicity reminds one of that passage, where Proserpine, when carried off by Pluto, regrets the loss of the flowers she has been gathering.
“ Collecti flores tunicis cecidere remiffis :
THE beautiful, but unfortunate country, where the scene of this pathetic eclogue is laid, had been recently torn in pieces by the depredations of its favage 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 circumftance that could possibly contribute to the tender effect this paftoral 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 Circafia, 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 circumstances of the dialogue a more affecting folemnity, he makes the time midnight, and describes the two shepherds in the very act of flight from the destruction that swept over
Where wildering fear and desperate forrow 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
companion to review the length of way they had passed. This is, certainly, painting from nature, and the thoughts, however obvious, or deftitute of refinement, are perfectly in character. But, as the closest pursuit of nature is the furest way to excellence in general, and to fublimity in particular, in poetical description, so we find that this fimple suggestion of the fhepherd is not unattended with magnificence. There is grandeur and variety in the landskip he describes :
“ And first review that long-extended plain,
, whose dangerous path we try'd ! And last this lofty mountain's weary side !" There is, in imitative harmony, an art of expressing a flow and difficult movement by adding to the usual number of pauses in a verse. This is observable in the line that defcribes the ascent of the mountain :
And last || this lofty mountain's || weary side o 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 expreflion in the following descriptive lines is almoft inimitably beautiful :
“ Sweet to the fight is Zabran's flowery plain,
Or breathe the sweets of Aly's flowery vale. Nevertheless in this delightful landskip there is an obvious fault: there is no diftinction between the plain of Zabran, and the vale of Aly: they are both flowery, and consequently undiversified. This could not proceed from the poet's want of judgment, but froin inattention : it had not occurred to him that he had employed the epithet flowery twice within so short a compass; an oversight which those who are accustomed to poetical, or, indeed, to any other species of composition, know to be very possible.
Nothing can be more beautifully conceived, or more pathetically expreffed, than the shepherd's apprehensions for his fair country-women, exposed to the ravages of the invaders.
" In vain Circaffia boasts her spicy groves,
Those hairs the Tartar's cruel hand shall rend.' There is, certainly, some very powerful charm in the liquid melody of founds. The editor of these poems could never read or hear the following verse repeated, without a degree of pleasure otherwise entirely unaccountable:
Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair." Such are the Oriental Eclogues, which we leave with the same kind of anxious pleafure, we feel upon a temporary parting with a beloved frieud.
ο Β S Ε R V Α Τ Ι ο Ν και
HE genius of Collins was capable of every degree of excellence in lyric poetry,
and perfectly qualified for that high province of the Muse. Possessed of a native ear for all the varieties of harmony and modulation, susceptible of the finest feelings of tenderness and humanity, but, above all, carried away by that high enthufiasm, which gives to imagination its strongest colouring, he was, at once, capable of soothing the ear with the melody of his numbers, of influencing the passions by the force of his pathos, and of gratifying the fancy by the luxury of his description.
In consequence of these powers, but more particularly, in consideration of the last, he chose such subjects for his lyric essays as were most favourable for the indulgence of description and allegory; where he could exercise his powers in moral and personal painting; where he could exert his inventiorrin conferring attributes on images or objects already new known, and described by a determinate number of characteristics; where he might give an uncommon eclat to his figures, by placing them in happier attitudes, or in more advantageous lights, and introduce new forms from the moral and intellectual world into the fociety of impersonated beings.
Such, no doubt, were the privileges which the poet expected, and such were the advantages he derived from the descriptive and allegorical nature of his themes.
It seems to have been the whole industry of our author (and it is, at the same time, almost all the claim to moral excellence his writings can boaft) to promote the infuence of the social virtues, by painting them in the fairelt and happiest lights.
“ Melior fieri tuendo,” would be no improper motto to his poems in general, but of his lyric poems it seems to be the whole moral tendency and effect. If therefore, it should appear to some readers that he has been more industrious to cultivate description than sentiment; it may be observed, that his descriptions themselves are sentimental, and answer the whole end of that species of writing, by embellishing every feature of virtue, and by conveying, through the effects of the pencil, the finest moral lessons to the mind.
Horace ipeaks of the fidelity of the ear in preference to the uncertainty of the eye; but if the mind receives conviction, it is, certainly, of very little importance through what medium, or by which of the fenfes, it is conveyed.' The impressions left on the imagination may, poffibly, be thought less durable than the deposits of memory, but it may very well admit of a question, whether a conclusion of reason, or an impression of imagination, will fooneft make its way to the heart. A moral precept, conveyed in words, is only an account of truth in its effects ; a moral picture is truth exemplified; and which is most likely to gain upon the affections, it may not be difficult to determine.
This, however, must be allowed, that those works approach the nearest to perfection which unite these powers and advantages ; which at once influence the imagination, and
engage the memory; the former by the force of animated and striking description, the latter by a brief, but harmonious conveyance of precept : thus, while the heart is VOL.VII.