Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
Ode to Evening
By William Collins (1721–1759)
IF aught of oaten stop, or pastoral 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        5
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-eyed bat
With short, shrill shriek, flits by on leathern wing;        10
    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,        15
    To breathe some softened strain,
Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening vale,
May, not unseemly, with its stillness suit,
    As, musing slow, I hail
    Thy genial loved return!        20
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,        25
And sheds the freshening dew, and, lovelier still,
    The pensive pleasures sweet
    Prepare thy shadowy car.
Then lead, calm votaress, where some sheety lake
Cheers the lone heath, or some time-hallowed pile,        30
    Or upland fallows grey
    Reflect its last cool gleam.
But when chill blustering winds, or driving rain,
Forbid my willing feet, be mine the hut,
    That from the mountain’s side,        35
    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.        40
While spring shall pour his showers, as oft he wont,
And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest eve!
    While summer loves to sport
    Beneath thy lingering light;
While sallow autumn fills thy lap with leaves;        45
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-lipped health,        50
    Thy gentlest influence own,
    And hymn thy favourite name!

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