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What is a summary of "Ode to Evening" (1746) by William Collins?

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aaruagr | Student, Undergraduate

Posted September 15, 2010 at 2:46 AM via web

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What is a summary of "Ode to Evening" (1746) by William Collins?

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nandini289 | Student, Undergraduate

Posted September 15, 2010 at 7:19 PM (Answer #1)

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Ode to Evening appeared in "Odes on Several Descriptive and allegorical Subjects"(1747).It is the one of the finest lyrics of the 18th century. It is written in unrhymed stanzas of four lines.

In "Ode to Evening" the poet is seen at his best.It is a masterpiece creation of Collins. Evening has been personified. It is not just a time of dusk. It is the spirit of Evening appearing as Nymph. She is described as reserved by nature. She is peaceful and simple. In her tent sun sets and resets.She has been imagined as a maid composed. The poet would like to sing his songs to soothe her modest ear. He would like to learn some softened strain from Evening herself so that when he sings it , she is pleased.

The poem begins with an invocation to the spirit of Evening to teach the poet to sing a soft strain to it. She is not just a part of dead nature. Sometime she appears as pensive Eve. She likes to hear the poet's songs. Her hours are fragrant. Fairies who sleep in the buds during daytime, come out in the evening and make the atmosphere fragrant.

His song should be as soft as the murmur of the streams or the dying winds. The poet says that barring the cry of the bat and the beetle , there is complete calm all around in the evening. He wishes to go to some solitary and barren spot or some ancient ruined building among lonely valleys in the evening to watch its beauty.But if he is prevented from doing so by "chill, blustering winds or driving rain", he would like to go to a lovely cottage on the mountain side to watch the dark colored evening gradually descending over the surrounding landscape with the "gradual dusky veil" .

The poem ends with the poet's conviction that the evening shall continue to inspire fancy (poets), friendship (friends), science (men of learning), and smiling peace (lovers of peace) throughout the seasons of the year.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 15, 2010 at 4:26 AM (Answer #2)

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This is a difficult poem to understand in part because of literary allusions (i.e., suggestive references to other literary works) that will elude the reader if unfamiliar with the referenced work of literature. For instance, "be mine the hut / That from the mountain's side / Views wilds and swelling floods" is recognized as a literary allusion to King's Lear's hut in Shakespeare's King Lear, while the reference to "pensive pleasures" is recognized as an allusion to John Milton's “Il Penseroso.” "Ode to Eve" is a poem for which biographical and historical background and expert explication are much more than helpful.

The poem's 52 lines in a single stanza of two long unrhymed couplets in iambic pentameter and two short unrhymed couplets in iambic trimeter begins with an invocation to the goddess Eve (evening) who ushers in twilight between the bright day and dark night. It then moves to a personal invocation, or prayer, that the poet speaker (thought to be the voice of the personal poet himself instead of a narrative poetic voice) might be taught Eve's "softer strain" so that he will "suit" and not jar against the "stillness" of Evening as he hails his return to Eve's "genial love."

The poet then gives a supplication that he might find the twilight pleasures--"pensive pleasures sweet"--of "some ruin" illuminated to a "more awful nod" by evening's "religious gleams," or that if "chill blustering winds" prevent him from wandering, that he might watch the "dewy fingers" of evening draw the "gradual dusky veil" of night from a "hut" on a "mountain's side." He ends with a benediction that through all the tumult of all the seasons, "so long" shall "fancy, friendship, science, and smiling peace" acknowledge the gentle power of evening, Eve, and love the name of the goddess Eve therein invoked.

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