Ode to Evening

By William Collins 1721–1759 William Collins
If aught of oaten stop, or past'ral song,
May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear,
    Like thy own solemn springs,
    Thy springs and dying gales,
O nymph reserved, while now the bright-haired sun
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,
    With brede ethereal wove,
    O'erhang his wavy bed;
Now air is hushed, save where the weak-ey'd 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:
    Now teach me, maid composed,
    To breathe some softened strain,
Whose numbers stealing through thy dark'ning vale
May not unseemly with its stillness suit,
    As musing slow, I hail
    Thy genial loved return.
For when thy folding star arising shows
His paly circlet, at his warning lamp
    The fragrant Hours, and elves
    Who slept in flowers 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 shad'wy car.
Then lead, calm votress, where some sheety lake
Cheers the lone heath, or some time-hallowed pile
    Or upland fallows grey
    Reflect its last cool gleam.
But when chill blust'ring winds, or driving rain,
Forbid my willing feet, be mine the hut
    That from the mountain's side
    Views wilds, and swelling floods,
And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
    Thy dewy fingers draw
    The gradual dusky veil.

While Spring shall pour his showers, as oft he wont,
And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest Eve;
    While Summer loves to sport
    Beneath thy ling'ring light;
While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves;
Or Winter, yelling through the troublous air,
    Affrights thy shrinking train
    And rudely rends thy robes;
So long, sure-found beneath the sylvan shed,
Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, rose-lipp'd Health,
    Thy gentlest influence own,
    And hymn thy fav'rite name!

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (2006)

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Poet William Collins 1721–1759

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens

Biography

William Collins is regarded as one of the most skilled 18th-century lyric poets. Marking a transitional period in English literature, Collins’s style is formally Neoclassical but presages the themes of the Romantic period. His treatment of individual experience and descriptions of emotion influenced his peers as well as the next generation of writers. Collins was born in Chichester, England, where his father served as mayor. He . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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