Ode Written In The Beginning Of The Year by William Collins

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"How Sleep The Brave, Who Sink To Rest By All Their Country's Wishes Blest!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Although considered an important English poet, Collins left behind only a score of poems. Of them all, the "Ode Written in Beginning of the Year 1746" is the most nearly perfect and the most classical, or Hellenic, in form and structure. It is a noble and touching elegy sorrowing for the British soldiers who had died in battle in 1745 in the War of the Austrian Succession and in Scotland. Throughout the poem there is an atmosphere of restrained but deeply felt passion, expressed primarily through the several personifications of abstractions:

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow'd mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!