“Ode to Evening,” a single stanza of fifty-two lines, is addressed to a goddess figure representing the time of day in the title. This “nymph,” or “maid,” who personifies dusk, is “chaste,” “reserv’d,” and meek, in contrast to the “bright-hair’d sun,” a male figure who withdraws into his tent, making way for night. Thus “Eve,” or evening, is presented as the transition between light and darkness.
William Collins further stresses a female identity in his appellation “calm vot’ress.” With this feminine form of “votary” he designates a nun, or one who vows to follow the religious life. This combination of modesty, devotion, and “pensive Pleasures” alludes to the dominating figure of John Milton’s “Il Penseroso.”
The poem has three parts: the opening salutation, locating Eve in sequence and in the countryside; the center, a plea for guidance in achieving a calm stoicism, with a qualification, showing the reason for the request, and a shift to a personal view-point; and a grand finale with a roll call of the seasons and a return to a universal dimension.
Throughout most of the poem, Collins acknowledges Eve’s authority and twilight’s pleasures, combining pastoral imagery with classical allusions. These give the poem a Miltonic overtone, familiar to readers of Collins’s day, and a close connection to his contemporaries, such as James Thomson and Joseph Warton.
(The entire section is 546 words.)