William Collins, "Ode to Fear" (1746), lns. 42-70

O Fear, I know thee by my throbbing heart,
Thy withering power inspired each mournful line;
Though gentle Pity claim her mingled part,
Yet all the thunders of the scene are thine!

ANTISTROPHE

Thou who such weary lengths hast passed,
Where wilt thou rest, mad nymph, at last?
Say wilt though shroud in haunted cell,
Where gloomy Rape and Murder dwell?
Or, in some hollowed seat,
'Gainst which the big waves beat,
Hear drowning seamen's cries in tempests brought!
Dark power, with shuddering meek submitted thought,
Be mine to read the visions old,
Which thy awakening bards have told:
And lest thou meet my blasted view,
Hold each strange tale devoutly true,
Ne'er be I found, by thee o'erawed,
In that thrice-hallowed eve abroad,
When ghosts, as cottage-maids believe,
Their pebbled beds permitted leave,
And goblins haunt from fire, or fen,
Or mine, or flood, the walks of men!
O thou whose spirit most possessed
The sacred seat of Shakespeare's breast!
By all that from they prophet broke,
In they divine emotions spoke:
Hither again thy fury deal,
Teach me but once like him to feel:
His cypress wreath my meed decree,
And I, O Fear, will dwell with thee!

Is Collins' "Ode to Fear" a gothic prototype or perhaps a precursor to the Grand Marquis? Collins' torments and fears are closely allied with his pleasures in the manner we associate with Radcliffe, Lewis, or Sade. The "Fear" Collins knows and longs after with his "throbbing heart" is the grandest sentiment -- "all the thunders" -- of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Shakespeare. This medusa, "Fear," is the muse of the tradition and provides a way of tapping into what is eternally powerful, in Collins view, about art. In their own way the gothicists of the '90s rediscovered the communal nature of "Fear"; their journeys amid cultural anxieties turned into a phenomenon in popular literature which struck a rich vein of "aweful pleasures."

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
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critical bibliography