William Collins

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William Collins (1721-12-251759-06-12) was an English lyric poet, seen as one of the most influential precursors of Romanticism.


  • In numbers warmly pure and sweetly strong.
    • Ode to Simplicity.
  • Well may your hearts believe the truths I tell:
    'T is virtue makes the bliss, where'er we dwell.
    • Oriental Eclogues. 1, Line 5. Compare: "That virtue only makes our bliss below, / And all our knowledge is ourselves to know", Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle iv, line 397.
  • How sleep the brave who sink to rest
    By all their country's wishes bless'd!
    • Ode written in the year 1746.
  • By fairy hands their knell is rung;
    By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
    There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray,
    To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
    And Freedom shall awhile repair,
    To dwell a weeping hermit there!
    • Ode written in the year 1746. A variation of the first two lines is "By hands unseen the knell is rung; / By fairy forms their dirge is sung".
  • Too nicely Jonson knew the critic's part;
    Nature in him was almost lost in Art.
    • To Sir Thomas Hammer on his Edition of Shakespeare.

Dirge (1744)

  • 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.
    • line 1
  • Each lonely scene shall thee restore;
    For thee the tear be duly shed;
    Beloved till life can charm no more,
    And mourn'd till Pity’s self be dead.
    • line 21

Ode to Evening (1747) [1]

  • Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat,
    With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing,
    Or where the beetle winds
    His small but sullen horn,
    As oft he rises 'midst the twilight path,
    Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum.
    • line 9
  • For when thy folding-star arising shows
    His paly circlet, at his warning lamp
    The fragrant hours, and elves
    Who slept in buds the day,
    And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge
    And sheds the fresh'ning dew, and lovelier still,
    The pensive pleasures sweet
    Prepare thy shadowy car.
    • line 21

The Passions, an Ode for Music (1747)

  • When Music, heavenly maid, was young,
    While yet in early Greece she sung.
    • Line 1.
  • Fill'd with fury, rapt, inspired.
    • Line 10.
  • 'T was sad by fits, by starts 't was wild.
    • Line 28.
  • With eyes up-raised, as one inspired,
    Pale Melancholy sate retired,
    And from her wild sequestered seat,
    In notes by distance made more sweet,
    Poured thro' the mellow horn her pensive soul.
    • Line 57. Compare: "Sweetest melodies / Are those that are by distance made more sweet", William Wordsworth, Personal Talk, stanza 2.
  • Love of peace, and lonely musing,
    In hollow murmurs died away.
    • Line 67
  • O Music! sphere-descended maid,
    Friend of Pleasure, Wisdom's aid!
    • Line 95.

How Sleep the Brave (1748)

  • How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
    By all their country’s wishes blest!
    • line 1
  • By fairy hands their knell is rung,
    By forms unseen their dirge is sung.
    • line 7

Ode Occasioned by the Death of Mr. Thomson, (1748) [2]

  • In yonder Grave a Druid lies
    Where slowly winds the Stealing Wave!
    The Year's best Sweets shall duteous rise
    To deck its Poet's sylvan Grave!
    • line 1
  • But thou, lorn stream, whose sullen tide
    No sedge-crown'd sister now attend,
    Now waft me from the green hill's side
    Whose cold turf hides the buried friend!
    • line 29


  • He had employed his mind chiefly on works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and, by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls of Elysian gardens.

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