The Passions by William Collins

Performed at Oxford, with Hayes's music, in 1750.
When Music, heavenly maid, was young,
While yet in early Greece she sung,
The Passions oft, to hear her shell,
Throng'd around her magic cell,
Exulting, trembling, raging, fainting, 5
Possest beyond the Muse's painting:
By turns they felt the glowing mind
Disturb'd, delighted, raised, refined;
Till once, 'tis said, when all were fired,
Fill'd with fury, rapt, inspired, 10
From the supporting myrtles round
They snatch'd her instruments of sound;
And, as they oft had heard apart
Sweet lessons of her forceful art,
Each (for Madness ruled the hour) 15
Would prove his own expressive power.
First Fear his hand, its skill to try,
Amid the chords bewilder'd laid,
And back recoil'd, he knew not why,
E'en at the sound himself had made. 20
Next Anger rush'd; his eyes on fire,
In lightnings own'd his secret stings:
In one rude clash he struck the lyre,
And swept with hurried hand the strings.
With woful measures wan Despair 25
Low, sullen sounds his grief beguiled;
A solemn, strange, and mingled air;
'Twas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild.
But thou, O Hope, with eyes so fair,
What was thy delighted measure? 30
Still it whisper'd promised pleasure,
And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail!
Still would her touch the strain prolong;
And from the rocks, the woods, the vale,
She call'd on Echo still, through all the song; 35
And, where her sweetest theme she chose,
A soft responsive voice was heard at every close,
And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.
And longer had she sung;—but, with a frown,
Revenge impatient rose: 40
He threw his blood−stain'd sword, in thunder, down;
And, with a withering look,
The war−denouncing trumpet took,
And blew a blast so loud and dread,
The Poetical Works of William Collins
Were ne'er prophetic sounds so full of woe! 45
And, ever and anon, he beat
The doubling drum, with furious heat;
And though sometimes, each dreary pause between,
Dejected Pity, at his side,
Her soul−subduing voice applied, 50
Yet still he kept his wild unalter'd mein,
While each strain'd ball of sight seem'd bursting from his head.
Thy numbers, Jealousy, to nought were fix'd;
Sad proof of thy distressful state;
Of differing themes the veering song was mix'd; 55
And now it courted Love, now raving call'd on Hate.
With eyes upraised, as one inspired,
Pale Melancholy sate retired;
And, from her wild sequester'd seat,
In notes by distance made more sweet, 60
Pour'd through the mellow horn her pensive soul:
And, dashing soft from rocks around,
Bubbling runnels join'd the sound;
Through glades and glooms the mingled measure stole,
Or, o'er some haunted stream, with fond delay, 65
Round an holy calm diffusing,
Love of Peace, and lonely musing,
In hollow murmurs died away.
But O! how alter'd was its sprightlier tone,
When Cheerfulness, a nymph of healthiest hue, 70
Her bow across her shoulder flung,
Her buskins gemm'd with morning dew,
Blew an inspiring air, that dale and thicket rung,
The hunter's call, to Faun and Dryad known!
The oak−crown'd Sisters, and their chaste−eyed Queen, 75
Satyrs and Sylvan Boys, were seen,
Peeping from forth their alleys green:
Brown Exercise rejoiced to hear;
And Sport leapt up, and seized his beechen spear.
Last came Joy's ecstatic trial: 80
He, with viny crown advancing,
First to the lively pipe his hand addrest;
But soon he saw the brisk awakening viol,
Whose sweet entrancing voice he loved the best;
They would have thought who heard the strain 85
They saw, in Tempe's vale, her native maids,
Amidst the festal sounding shades,
To some unwearied minstrel dancing,
While, as his flying fingers kiss'd the strings,
Love framed with Mirth a gay fantastic round: 90
Loose were her tresses seen, her zone unbound;
And he, amidst his frolic play,
As if he would the charming air repay,
Shook thousand odours from his dewy wings.
O Music! sphere−descended maid, 95
The Poetical Works of William Collins
Friend of Pleasure, Wisdom's aid!
Why, goddess! why, to us denied,
Lay'st thou thy ancient lyre aside?
As, in that loved Athenian bower,
You learn'd an all commanding power, 100
Thy mimic soul, O Nymph endear'd,
Can well recall what then it heard;
Where is thy native simple heart,
Devote to Virtue, Fancy, Art?
Arise, as in that elder time, 105
Warm, energetic, chaste, sublime!
Thy wonders, in that godlike age,
Fill thy recording Sister's page—
'Tis said, and I believe the tale,
Thy humblest reed could more prevail, 110
Had more of strength, diviner rage,
Than all which charms this laggard age;
E'en all at once together found,
Cecilia's mingled world of sound—
O bid our vain endeavours cease; 115
Revive the just designs of Greece:
Return in all thy simple state!
Confirm the tales her sons relate!
30. What was thy delightful measure?

If the music which was composed for this ode had equal merit with the ode itself, it must have been the most excellent performance of the kind in which poetry and music have, in modern times, united. Other pieces of the same nature have derived their greatest reputation from the perfection of the music that accompanied them, having in themselves little more merit than that of an ordinary ballad: but in this we have the whole soul and power of poetry—expression that, even without the aid of music, strikes to the heart; and imagery of power enough to transport the attention, without the forceful alliance of corresponding sounds! what, then, must have been the effect of these united!
It is very observable, that though the measure is the same, in which the musical efforts of Fear, Anger, and Despair are described, yet, by the variation of the cadence, the character and operation of each is strongly expressed: thus particularly of Despair:
“With woful measures wan Despair—
Low, sullen sounds his grief beguiled,
A solemn, strange, and mingled air,
'Twas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild.”
He must be a very unskilful composer who could not catch the power of imitative harmony from these lines! The picture of Hope that follows this is beautiful almost beyond imitation. By the united powers of imagery and harmony, that delightful being is exhibited with all the charms and graces that pleasure and fancy have appropriated to her:
Relegat, qui semel percurrit;
Qui nunquam legit, legat.
“But thou, O Hope, with eyes so fair,
What was thy delighted measure!
Still it whisper'd promised pleasure,
And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail!
Still would her touch the strain prolong,
And from the rocks, the woods, the vale,
She call'd on Echo still through all the song;
And where her sweetest theme she chose,
A soft responsive voice was heard at every close,
And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.”
In what an exalted light does the above stanza place this great master of poetical imagery and harmony!
what varied sweetness of numbers! what delicacy of judgment and expression! how characteristically does
Hope prolong her strain, repeat her soothing closes, call upon her associate Echo for the same purposes, and
display every pleasing grace peculiar to her!
“And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.”
Legat, qui nunquam legit;
Qui semel percurrit, relegat.
The descriptions of Joy, Jealousy, and Revenge are excellent, though not equally so. Those of Melancholy
and Cheerfulness are superior to every thing of the kind; and, upon the whole, there may be very little hazard
in asserting, that this is the finest ode in the English language.
The Poetical Works of William Collins

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