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4. It was in this latter period that he began to surrender himself to the full current of the romantic movement. He had only been dimly conscious of its beginning before this, although he had given such full expression to one phase of it in his Elegy. He did not abandon his classical studies and precedents, but he devoted himself to the older literature and legends of his country. He contemplated a history of English poetry; but, when he heard of Warton's similar project, he handed over his notes to him. His studies bore better fruit-his two famous Pindaric Odes, The Progress of Poesie (1754), and The Bard issued along with it in 1757. They rank next to his Elegy in popularity, in melodious approach to the tone of modern poetry, and in measured dignity of language. They are both strictly Pindaric in form, having strophe, antistrophe, and epode in each stanza, and they are both unities in their art. The one describes in a picturesque way, and with many beautiful passages and expressions, the birth of the poetic art and its development in Greece, Italy, and Britain; in it occur phrases that have become the current coin of literature; of Shakespeare "To him the mighty mother did unveil
Her awful face";
"He passed the flaming bounds of time and space"; and of Dryden, Fancy
"Scatters from her pictured urn
Thoughts that breathe and words that burn".
The other dramatises the legend of the massacre of the Welsh bards by Edward the First and makes the bard before plunging into the roaring tide" curse him and prophesy the Elizabethan era; its noble language and style have had even more influence than the former on later English poets, like Shelley (in Hellas), Keats (in his Odes), and Byron (in his Isles of Greece); it contains lines, that have grown familiar to all readers;
"Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,
He was greatly delighted with Ossian; he studied the old Norse and Welsh literatures; and he paraphrased, in vigorous ballad and octosyllabic verse, some passages from their poetry, which he published in 1768. The pieces were The Fatal Sisters, The Descent of Odin, and The Triumphs of Owen; other posthumous paraphrases were The Death of Hoel, Caradoc, and Conon. They are instinct with the picturesque power of the primitive Teutonic and Celtic poetry, and they show that, if Gray had been born half a century later, he would have been the foremost representative of the new and more passionate poetry of the nineteenth century. The only other poem he wrote worth notice was his Ode for Music on the Installation of the Duke of Grafton as Chancellor of Cambridge University (1769). The minister had made him Professor of History the year before. It is but a feeble echo. His career was over; for ill-health had taken possession of him; and he died in 1771, aged 55.
I. Another fastidious artist, who rose in revolt against the heroic couplet and prepared the way for the lyric outburst of a later time, was William Collins (1721-1759). He began, as a boy at school and college, to imitate the Queen Anne poets. His Persian Eclogues, or, as he afterwards called them, Oriental Eclogues, written at Winchester, and his Epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer, written at Oxford, and published, the one in 1742 when he was 21, and the other in 1743, are in the heroic couplet. It was by these he was best known in his day. But there is in them some promise of his later odes and of the coming time. He breaks them up into irregular paragraphs and stanzas, with occasionally a refrain, as in the second and third eclogue; and there is in these two at least a lyrical passion that differs by a whole world from the satiric or didactic or rhetorical use of the verse by Pope. The first eclogue, Selim or The Shepherd's Moral, and the fourth, Agib and Secander or The Fugitives, are more like the frigid dramas of the time that modelled themselves on Addison's Cato. But Hassan or The Camel Driver, and Abra or The Georgian Sultana, are lit with
genuine emotion; they are both love lyrics, the one, however, giving prominence to the expression of thirst in the desert, and the other to the desire of a Sultan and Sultana for simple rustic life. His Epistle to Hanmer "on his edition of Shakespeare's works" shows an appreciative study of Shakespeare. In the midst of its Popian pseudoclassicism, there is evidence of a true insight into the dramatist's study of man.
2. He left Oxford in 1744, and settled down in London to a literary life, under the wing of Johnson. Here he wrote his Odes, which he published in 1747. Some of them
are semi-pindaric, the Ode to Fear, the Ode to Mercy, and the Ode to Liberty. Others have the structure of the odes for St. Cecilia's day so popular in the age of Dryden and Pope -the well known Ode on the Passions intended for music, and the Ode on the Poetical Character. "The Manners, An Ode" and the much quoted "Ode written in the year 1746" beginning "How sleep the brave who sink to rest again are merely poems in the octosyllabic couplet. The Odes To Pity, To Peace, To a Lady, take a six-lined stanza that would be octosyllabic but for the third and sixth lines, which rhyme and are of six syllables; the ode To Simplicity differs from these in using ten syllables in each of the third and sixth lines. They all echo in their phrases and rhythms Milton's youthful poems; but the echo has lost half its music in a prosaic and metaphysical atmosphere; the very themes, abstractions personified, reveal the age in which they were written. The Ode to Liberty has an opening strophe that has in it the nobler music of Gray; whilst the irregular stanzas of that on The Passions have finely coloured pictures of Hope, Revenge, Pity, Melancholy, and Cheerfulness that remind us of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso; thus of cheerfulness,
"Her bow across her shoulders flung,
Her buskins gemm'd with morning dew,
Blew an inspiring air that dale and thicket rung".
But the metaphysical fallacy, the love of fossilised allegory, still mars the best of them. This cannot be said of his Ode to Evening, which comes nearest to the sweetness of Milton's early poems, and adopts a musical stanza of its own. Miltonic echoes abound;
"the beetle winds
His small but sullen horn";
'Many a nymph who wreathes her brow with sedge";
His paly circlet ";
"Sallow autumn fills thy lap with leaves ".
It comes nearest of all his poems to Gray's Elegy in suitability of theme and sentiment to the new audience. Two stanzas will show the insight into nature and love of simple life ;
"Or if chill, blustering winds, or driving rain,
That, from the mountain side,
Views wilds and swelling floods,
"And hamlets brown and dim-discovered spires,
The gradual dusky veil ".
We feel no want of the usual rhyme here. In spirit and in freedom of treatment and of melody it anticipates the best of the nineteenth century.
3. As he developed, he grew, unlike Gray, more simple both in his metres and expression of emotion. In his dirge
in Cymbeline beginning
"To fair Fidele's grassy tomb",
and in his Ode on the death of Thomson the poet, beginning
"In yonder grave a Druid lies
Where slowly winds the stealing wave",
both written in the same alternately rhyming four-lined stanza, and evidently composed in 1748, the personification of entities has been almost abandoned. He is getting nearer and nearer to the simplicity of emotion and art that marks the true elegy and ballad and lyric. And though in his last poem, his Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands (1749), he adopts an elaborate stanza and a majestic note, he shows that he was about to develop into a romantic poet such as Scott was half a century after. It has only one allegorised abstraction, Virtue, and the only mark of Queen Anne conventionalism in it is the frequent reference to the "Muse". It describes, in fourteen stanzas of seventeen lines each, the romance of Highland legend
and myth, their connection with the prehistoric past, and their likeness to those that Tasso introduced into his Jerusalem Delivered. He makes poetic reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth, and Ben Jonson's visit to Drummond of Hawthornden, and closes with a wish that he may one day see with his own eyes Scotland's "splendid friths and lakes", and her
Lowly glens o'er-hung with spreading broom,
Most striking is the stanza that pictures the shepherd's wife
4. It was only towards the close of their careers that they allowed themselves to drink in the new romantic atmosphere. Gray in The Bard and his Paraphrases from the Norse and the Welsh, and Collins in his Ode on the Highlands showed how the currents of poetic feeling were changing. The narrow circles of culture were about to lose their power, with their French and pseudo-classical traditions and models. And the nation was about to turn