William Collins: Poems
William Collins, W. B. Hutchings
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William Collins’s life and literary career were short, sadly affected and prematurely ended by illness. But his works, notably the volume of odes published in 1746 and his elegy on the death of fellow-poet James Thomson, are sufficient to establish him as a major poetic voice in a key period in the development of English poetry. By choosing the ode as his preferred form and by using imagery and personification as his primary vehicles of expression, Collins made one of the most significant contributions to the establishment of lyric poetry as the truest poetry. For this, he has often rightly been seen as a direct influence on such later poets as Keats, but his work deserves to be read and enjoyed for its own sake.
successively, morning, noon, evening and night. As Samuel Johnson, always sceptical of the value of idealised depictions of country life, notes in his ‘Life of Pope’, such poems provide an appropriate trainingground for the youthful poet because they do not depend upon that experience of life which only adulthood can bring. Their usefulness is thus restricted to their status as attractive exercises, rather than meaningful contributions to knowledge. However, poets have attempted to combine the
her feeling of inadequacy when compared with Shakespeare (l.8). Line 9–12. Describe Shakespeare’s works as having been neglected over a period of years. Line 10. Science. Knowledge (from Latin ‘scire’, to know). Line 11. Fancy. Imagination. Line 19. rage. Poetic ardour. Line 22. Phaedra. The wife of Theseus, whose tortured love for her stepson is the subject of Euripides’ Hippolytus. Racine’s Phèdre (1671) takes the same subject. 82 Line 23. Oedipus, whose discovery that he has killed
Richmond church. Thomson died on August 27, 1748, and was buried in the parish church. E. M. W. Tillyard’s essay notes a double progression in the course of the poem, that of nightfall and that of a boat on the Thames. The boat approaches ‘yonder grave’ (l.1) from a distance, and moves away again in stanza eight as night falls in stanza nine. At the mid-point of the poem, stanza six, Collins directly addresses Thomson’s grave. In addition, as Wendorf points out, there is a circular form, most
too, Daphnis loved.) Bibliography John Bishop, ‘The Genial William Collins’, English Language Notes, 31 (1994), pp.33–40 E. M. W. Tillyard, ‘William Collins’s “Ode on the Death of Thomson” ’, A Review of English Literature (ARIEL), 1 (1960), pp.30–38 J. M. S. Tompkins, ‘In Yonder Grave a Druid Lies’, Review of English Studies, 22 (1946), pp.1–16 Richard Wendorf, William Collins and Eighteenth-Century English Poetry (Minneapolis : 1981) Line 1. See headnote. Druid. Line 6. harp. The Aeolian
boundless mind; And bad, like thee, his Athens ever claim, A fond alliance with the poet’s name. 17 A Song from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline  Sung by Guiderus and Arviragus over Fidele, supposed to be dead To fair Fidele’s grassy tomb Soft maids, and village hinds shall bring Each opening sweet, of earliest bloom, And rifle all the breathing spring. 5 No wailing ghost shall dare appear To vex with shrieks this quiet grove : But shepherd lads assemble here, And melting virgins own their love.