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by which they had been deluded into torical fact from which liberty derives all
plea of reason who had groaned under the The panic which, like an epidemic calamities of a social state according to transport, seized upon all classes of men the provisions of which one man riots in during the excesses consequent upon the luxury whilst another famishes for want of French Revolution, is gradually giving bread ? Can he who the day before was place to sanity. It has ceased to be a trampled slave suddenly become liberalbelieved that whole generations of mankind minded, forbearing, and independent ? ought to consign themselves to a hopeless This is the consequence of the habits of a inheritance of ignorance and misery, be- state of society to be produced by resolute cause a nation of men who had been dupes perseverance and indefatigable hope, and and slaves for centuries were incapable of long-suffering and long-believing courage, conducting themselves with the wisdom and the systematic efforts of generations and tranquillity of freemen so soon as some of men of intellect and virtue. Such is of their fetters were partially loosened. the lesson which experience teaches now. That their conduct could not have been But, on the first reverses of hope in the marked by any other characters than progress of French liberty, the sanguine ferocity and thoughtlessness is the his- eagerness for good overleaped the solution
ives all pod the There is
which en into past.
of these questions, and for a time extin- in contriving to disgust him according to guished itself in the unexpectedness of their the rules of criticism, I have simply result. Thus, many of the most ardent clothed my thoughts in what appeared to and tender-hearted of the worshippers me the most obvious and appropriate of public good have been morally ruined language. A person familiar with nature, by what a partial glimpse of the events and with the most celebrated productions they deplored appeared to show as the of the human mind, can scarcely err in melancholy desolation of all their cherished following the instinct, with respect to hopes. Hence gloom and misanthropy selection of language, produced by that have become the characteristics of the age familiarity. in which we live, the solace of a disap- There is an education peculiarly fitted pointment that unconsciously finds relief for a Poet, without which genius and only in the wilful exaggeration of its own sensibility can hardly fill the circle of their despair. This influence has tainted the capacities. No education, indeed, can literature of the age with the hopelessness entitle to this appellation a dull and unof the minds from which it flows. Meta- | observant mind, or one, though neither physics, and inquiries into moral and dull nor unobservant, in which the channels political science, have become little else of communication between thought and than vain attempts to revive exploded expression have been obstructed or closed. superstitions, or sophisms like those? of How far it is my fortune to belong to Mr. Malthus, calculated to lull the op- either of the latter classes I cannot know. pressors of mankind into a security of I aspire to be something better. The everlasting triumph. Our works of fiction circumstances of my accidental education and poetry have been overshadowed by have been favourable to this ambition. I the same infectious gloom, But mankind have been familiar from boyhood with appear to me to be emerging from their mountains and lakes and the sea, and the trance. I am aware, methinks, of a slow, solitude of forests: Danger, which sports gradual, silent change. In that belief i upon the brink of precipices, has been my have composed the following Poem. playmate. I have trodden the glaciers of
I do not presume to enter into compe- the Alps, and lived under the eye of Mont tition with
our greatest contemporary Blanc. I have been a wanderer among Poets. Yet I am unwilling to tread in the distant fields. I have sailed down mighty footsteps of any who have preceded me. rivers, and seen the sun rise and set, and I have sought to avoid the imitation of the stars come forth, whilst I have sailed any style of language or versification night and day down a rapid stream among peculiar to the original minds of which it mountains. I have seen populous cities, is the character; designing that, even if and have watched the passions which rise what I have produced be worthless, it and spread, and sink and change, amongst should still be properly my own.
Nor assembled multitudes of men. I have have I permitted any system relating to seen the theatre of the more visible ravages mere words to divert the attention of the of tyranny and war; cities and villages reader, from whatever interest I may have reduced to scattered groups of black and succeeded in creating, to my own ingenuity roofless houses, and the naked inhabitants
sitting famished il ought to except Sir W. Drummond's
upon Academical Questions ; a volume of very acute
thresholds. I have conversed with living and powerful metaphysical criticism.
men of genius. The poetry of ancient 2 It is remarkable, as a symptom of the revival Greece and Rome, and modern Italy, and of public hope, that Mr. Malthus has assigned, in the later editions of his work, an indefinite
our own country, has been to me, like dominion to moral restraint over the principle of external nature, a passion and an enjoypopulation.
This concession answers all the ment, Such are the sources from which inferences from his doctrine unfavourable to the materials for the imagery of human irnprovement, and reduces the Essay on
my Population to a commentary illustrative of the
have been drawn. I have considered unanswerableness of Political Justice.
Poetry in its most comprehensive sense; s
and have read the poets and the historians influence of their age produced. And this and the metaphysicians 1 whose writings is an influence which neither the neanest have been accessible to me, and have scribbler nor the sublimest genius of any looked upon the beautiful and majestic era can escape; and which I have not scenery of the earth, as common sources attempted to escape. of those elements which it is the province I have adopted the stanza of Spenser of the Poet to embody and combine. Yet (a measure inexpressibly beautiful). not the experience and the feelings to which I because I consider it a finer model of refer do not in themselves constitute men poetical harmony than the blank verse of Poets, but only prepare them to be the Shakespeare and Milton, but because in auditors of those who are. How far I the latter there is no shelter for mediocrity; shall be found to possess that more essen- you must either succeed or fail. This tial attribute of Poetry, the power of perhaps an aspiring spirit should desire. awakening in others sensations like those But I was enticed also by the brilliancy which animate my own bosom, is that and magnificence of sound which a mind which, to speak sincerely, I know not ; that has been nourished upon musical and which, with an acquiescent and con- thoughts can produce by a just and hartented spirit, I expect to be taught by the monious arrangement of the pauses of this effect which I shall produce upon those measure. Yet there will be found some whom I now address.
instances where I have completely failed I have avoided, as I have said before, in this attempt; and one, which I here rethe imitation of any contemporary style. quest the reader to consider as an erratum, But there must be a resemblance, which where there is left, most inadvertently, an does not depend upon their own will, be- alexandrine in the middle of a stanza. tween all the writers of any particular age. But in this as in every other respect I They cannot escape from subjection to a have written fearlessly. It is the misforcommon influence which arises out of an tune of this age that its writers, too thoughtinfinite combination of circumstances be- less of immortality, are exquisitely sensible longing to the times in which they live; to temporary praise or blame, They though cach is in a degree the author of write with the fear of Reviews before their the very influence by which his being is eyes. This system of criticism sprang up thus pervaded. Thus, the tragic poets in that torpid interval when poetry was of the age of Pericles; the Italian revivers not. Poetry, and the art which professes of ancient learning; those mighty intellects to regulate and limit its powers, cannot of our own country that succeeded the subsist together. Longinus could not Reformation, the translators of the Bible, have been the contemporary of Homer, nor Shakespeare, Spenser, the dramatists of Boileau of Horace, Yet this species of the reign of Elizabeth, and Lord Bacon; 2 criticism never presumed to assert an under. the colder spirits of the interval that suc- standing of its own: it has always, unlike ceeded ;-all resemble cach other, and true science, followed, not preceded, the differ from every other in their several opinion of mankind, and would even now classes. In this view of things, Ford can bribe with worthless adulation some of our no more be called the imitator of Shakes- greatest Poets to impose gratuitous fetters peare than Shakespeare the imitator of on their own imaginations, and become unFord. There were perhaps few other points conscious accomplices in the daily murder of of resemblance between these two men than all genius either not so aspiring or not so forthat which the universal and inevitable tunate as their own. I have sought there
fore to write, as I believe that Homer, Shake1 In this sense there may be such a thing as perfectibility in works of fiction, notwithstanding speare, and Milton, wrote, in utter disregard the concession often made by the advocates of of anonymous censure. I am certain that human improvement, that perfectibility is a calumny and misrepresentation, though it term applicable only to science.
• Milton stands alone in the age which he may move me to compassion, cannot disillumined.
turb my peace.
I shall understand the ex
ind this neanest of any
not el of se of ? in ity; This
pressive silence of those sagacious enemies The Poem now presented to the public who dare not trust themselves to speak. occupied little more than six months in I shall endeavour to extract, from the midst the composition. That period has been of insult and contempt and maledictions, devoted to the task with unremitting ardour those admonitions which may tend to and enthusiasm. I have exercised a correct whatever imperfections such cen- watchsul and earnest criticism on my work surers may discover in this my first serious as it grew under my hands. I would appeal to the public. If certain critics willingly have sent it forth to the world were as clear-sighted as they are malignant, with that perfection which long labour how great would be the benefit to be derived and revision is said to bestow. But I from their virulent writings! As it is, I found that, if I should gain something in fear I shall be malicious enough to be exactness by this method, I might lose amused with their paltry tricks and lame much of the newness and energy of imagery invectives. Should the public judge that and language as it flowed fresh from my my composition is worthless, I shall indeed mind. And, although the mere composibow before the tribunal from which Milton tion occupied no more than six months, received his crown of immortality; and the thoughts thus arranged were slowly shall seek to gather, if I live, strength from gathered in as many years. that defeat, which may nerve me to some I trust that the reader will carefully disnew enterprise of thought which may not tinguish between those opinions which be worthless. I cannot conceive that have a dramatic propriety in reference to Lucretius, when he meditated that poem the characters which they are designed to whose doctrines are yet the basis of our elucidate, and such as are properly my metaphysical knowledge, and whose elo- own. The erroneous and degrading idea quence has been the wonder of mankind, which men have conceived of a Supreme wrote in awe of such censure as the hired | Being, for instance, is spoken against, but sophists of the impure and superstitious not the Supreme Being itself. 'The belief noblemen of Rome might affix to what he which some superstitious persons whom I should produce. It was at the period have brought upon the stage entertain of when Greece was led captive, and Asia the Deity, as injurious to the character of made tributary to the Republic, fast verg- his benevolence, is widely different from ing itself to slavery and ruin, that a multi- my own. In recommending also a great tude of Syrian captives, bigoted to the and important change in the spirit which worship of their obscene Ashtaroth, and animates the social institutions of mankind, the unworthy successors of Socrates and I have avoided all flattery to those violent Zeno, found there a precarious subsistence and malignant passions of our nature by administering, under the name of which are ever on the watch to mingle freedmen, to the vices and vanities of the with and to alloy the most beneficial ingreat. These wretched men were skilled novations. There is no quarter given to to plead, with a superficial but plausible Revenge, or Envy, or Prejudice. Love is set of sophisms, in favour of that contempt celebrated everywhere as the sole law which for virtue which is the portion of slaves, and should govern the moral world. that faith in portents, the most fatal substitute for benevolence in the imaginations of men, which, arising from the enslaved communities of the East, then first began to
DEDICATION overwhelm the western nationsinits stream. Were these thekind of men whose disappro- There is no danger to a man that knows bation the wise and lofty-minded Lucretius What life and death is : there's not any
law should have regarded with a salutary awe? The latest and perhaps the meanest of those Exceeds his knowledge: neither is it lawful who follow in his footsteps would disdain That he should stoop to any other law. to hold life on such conditions.
I do remember well the hour which
dawn it was,
the glittering grass, And wept, I knew not why : until
there rose From the near schoolroom voices
that, alas! Were but one echo from a world of
So now my summer task is ended,
chanted dome ;
gloom, Its doubtful promise thus I would
unite With thy beloved name, thou Child of
love and light.
The harsh and grating strife of tyrants
and of foes.
And then I clasped my hands, and
looked around, But none was near to mock my
streaming eyes, Which poured their warm drops on
the sunny groundSo, without shame, I spake :-“I
will be wise, And just, and free, and mild, if in
The toil which stole from thee so many
Is ended-and the fruit is at thy Such power, for I grow weary to feet !
behold No longer where the woods to frame The selfish and the strong still a bower
tyrannise With interlaced branches mix and
Without reproach or check.” I then meet,
controlled Or where, with sound like many | My tears, my heart grew calm, and I voices sweet,
was meek and bold. Waterfalls leap among wild islands
And from that hour did I with earnest lone retreat
thought Of moss-grown trees and weeds, shall
Ileap knowledge from forbidden I be seen :
mines of lore, But beside thee, where still my heart
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or has ever been.
taught I cared to learn, but from that
secret store Thoughts of great deeds were mine, Wrought linked armour for dear Friend, when first
before The clouds which wrap this world It might walk forth to war among from youth did pass.