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excess in conscience is the exquisite recast of the originally exquisite second line in the Ode to Evening. Such things will make us now and then misdoubt whether some subtle and noble scruple may not in this case also have robbed us of jewels only less costly than two stanzas excised from the text of The Miller's Daughter, full of the colour and breath and odour of a mooncharmed April twilight; if not even of some rapture as rare and precious as we are now forbidden to renew by repossession of the far and fairy light, the clear aerial melody, of the once revealed and long recluded Hesperides. Yet I think and trust he would hardly have left so lovely and loveworthy a child of his early genius to fade perforce into compelled and unnatural forgetfulness, while the brother poem, beside which this had appeared as a twinborn sister, was so gloriously refreshed with new blood and transfigured into riper beauty of more wide and deep delight, as were the revived and reinvigorated Lotos-Eaters.
But Collins may claim of us a yet loftier note of praise than this : and it is one which could hardly have been sounded by the 'capacious mouth' of his good and true friend Johnson. He was the first English poet, after Milton's voice for the dwellers upon earth’ fell silent, to blow again the clarion of republican faith and freedom: to reannounce with the passion of a lyric and heroic rapture the divine right and the godlike duty of tyrannicide. He too, in the high-toned phrase of Mr. Browning, like Milton, Burns, and Shelley, ‘was with us; they watch from their graves.' And on this side of the summit of fair fame he stands loftily alone between the sunset of Milton and the sunrise of Landor. I hardly think there are much nobler verses in all English than those in which the new Alcæus, 'fancy-blest' indeed, has sung the myrtlehidden sword that rid the sunlight of the first Pisistratid. For all her evil report among men on the score of passive obedience and regiculture, Oxford has now and then turned out-in a double sense, we might say, with reference to Shelley—sons who have loved the old cause as well as any reared by the nursing mother of Milton.
There is yet another memorable bond of communion which connects the fame of Collins with that of Milton in the past and with that of Shelley in the future. Between the elegy on Edward King and the elegy on John Keats came the far humbler and softer note, yet full of sweet native purity and sincerity, by which Collins set the seal of a gentle consecration on the grave of the ‘Druid'
Thomson ; a note to be as gently echoed by Wordsworth in commemoration of his own sweeter song and sadder end.
The mention of Wordsworth's name reminds me of another but a casual coincidence between the fortunes of that great poet's work and of this his lyric and elegiac predecessor's. In both cases the generally accepted masterpiece of their lyric labour seems to me by no means the poem genuinely acceptable as such. Mr. Arnold, with the helpful loyalty and sound discretion of a wise disciple, has noted as much in the case of Wordsworth; it is no less demonstrable a truth in the case of Collins. As surely as, for instance, the Ode to Duty is a work of greater perfection and more perfect greatness than that on the Intimations of Immortality, the Ode on the Passions is a work of less equal sustentation and purity of excellence than, for example, is the Ode to Evening. Yet of course its grace and vigour, its vivid and pliant dexterity of touch, are worthy of all their long inheritance of praise ; and altogether it holds out admirably well to the happy and harmonious end ; whereas the very Ode to Liberty, after an overture worthy of Milton's or of Handel's Agonistes, a prelude that peals as from beneath the triumphal hand of the thunder-bearer, steadily subsides through many noble but ever less and less noble verses, towards a final couplet showing not so much the flatness of failure as the prostration of collapse.
Living both in an age and after an age of critical poetry, Collins, always alien alike from the better and from the worse influences of his day, has shown at least as plentiful a lack of any slightest critical instinct or training as ever did any poet on record, in his epistle to Hanmer on that worthy knight's “inqualifiable' edition of Shakespeare. But his couplets, though incomparably inferior to Gray's, are generally spirited and competent as well as fluent and smooth.
The direct sincerity and purity of their positive and straightforward inspiration will always keep his poems fresh and sweet to the senses of all men. He was a solitary song-bird among many more or less excellent pipers and pianists. He could put more spirit of colour into a single stroke, more breath of music into a single note, than could all the rest of his generation into all the labours of their lives. And the sweet name and the lucid memory of his genius could only pass away with all relics and all records of lyric poetry in England.
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
ODE TO LIBERTY.
And call in solemn sounds to life,
Like vernal hyacinths in sullen hue,
Applauding freedom loved of old to view ?
At wisdom's shrine awhile its flame concealing, (What place so fit to seal a deed renowned ?)
Till she her brightest lightnings round revealing,
O goddess, in that feeling hour,
Let not my shell's misguided power
E’er draw thy sad, thy mindful tears.
And all the blended work of strength and grace,
With many a rude repeated stroke, And many a barbarous yell, to thousand fragments broke.
They saw, by what escaped the storm,
1 The Medici.
The Gaul, 'tis held of antique story,
No sea between, nor cliff sublime and hoary,
To the blown Baltic then, they say,
The wild waves found another way, Where Orcas howls, his wolfish mountains rounding ;
Till all the banded west at once 'gan rise, A wide wild storm even nature's self confounding, Withering her giant sons with strange uncouth surprise. This pillared earth so firm and wide,
By winds and inward labours torn, In thunders dread was pushed aside,
And down the shouldering billows borne.
The little isles on every side,
Where thousand elfin shapes abide,
For thee consenting heaven has each bestowed,
To thee this blest divorce she owed, For thou hast made her vales thy loved, thy last abode.