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worship of their obscene Ashtaroth, and the unworthy successors of Socrates and Zeno, found there a precarious subsistence by administering, under the name of freedmen, to the vices and vanities of the great. These wretched men were skilled to plead, with a superficial but plausible set of sophisms, in favour of that contempt for virtue which is the portion of slaves, and 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 overwhelm the western nations in its stream. Were these the kind of men whose disapprobation the wise and lofty-minded Lucretius should have regarded with a salutary awe? The latest and perhaps the meanest of those who follow in his footsteps, would disdain to hold life on such conditions.
The Poem now presented to the Public occupied little more than six months in the composition. That period has been devoted to the task with unremitting ardour and enthusiasm. I have exercised a watchful and earnest criticism on my work as it grew uder my hands. I would willingly have sent it forth to the world with that perfection which long labour and revision is said to bestow. But I found that if I should gain something in exactness by this method, I might lose much of the newness and energy of imagery and language as it flowed fresh from my mind. And although the mere composition occupied no more than six months, the thoughts thus arranged were slowly gathered in as many years.
I trust that the reader will carefully distinguish between those opinions which have a dramatic propriety in reference to the characters which they are designed to elucidate, and such as are properly my own. The erroneous and degrading idea which men have conceived of a Supreme Being, for instance, is spoken against, but not the Supreme Being itself. The belief which some superstitious persons whom I have brought upon the stage, entertain of the Deity, as injurious to the character of his benevolence, is widely different from my own. In recommending also a great and important change in the spirit which animates the social institutions of mankind, I have avoided all flattery to those
violent and malignant passions of our nature, which are ever on the watch to mingle with and to alloy the most beneticial innovations. There is no quarter given to Revenge, or Envy, or Prejudice. Love is celebrated every where as the sole law which should govern the moral world.
In the personal conduct of my Hero and Heroine, there is one circumstance which was intended to startle the reader from the trance of ordinary life. It was my object to break through the crust of those outworn opinions on which established institutions depend. I have appealed therefore to the most universal of all feelings, and have endeavoured to strengthen the moral sense, by forbidding it to waste its energies in seeking to avoid actions which are only crimes of convention. It is because there is so great a multitude of artificial vices, that there are so few real virtues. Those feelings alone which are benevolent or malevolent, are essentially good or bad. The circumstance of which I speak, was introduced, however, merely to accustom men to that charity and toleration which the exhibition of a practice widely differing from their own, las a tendency to promote. Nothing indeed can be more mischievous, than many actions innocent in themselves, which might bring down upon individuals the bigotted contempt and rage of the multitude.
The sentiments connected with and characteristic of this circumstance bave no personal reference to the Writer.
TO MARY [WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY).
There is no danger to a man, that knows
Its doubtful promise thus I would unite
2. The toil which stole from thee so many an hour, Is ended, and the fruit is at thy feet! No longer where the woods to frame a bower With interlaced branches mix and meet, Or where with sound like many voices sweet, Water-falls leap among wild islands green, Which framed for my lone boat a lone retreat
Of moss-grown trees and weeds, shall I be seen : Dut beside thee, where still my heart has ever been.
Were but one echo from a world of woes-
And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Within me, till there came upon my mind
Which crushed and withered wine, that could not bo Aught but a lifeless clog, until revived by thee.
7. Thou Friend, whose presence on my wintry heart Fell, like bright Spring upon some herbless plain; How beautiful and calm and free thou wert In thy young wisdom, when the mortal chain Of Custom thou didst burst and rend in twain, And walked as free as light the clouds among, Which many an envious slave then breathed in vain
From his diin dungeon, and my spirit sprung
And cherished friends turn with the multitude
And these delights, and thou, have been to me
10. Is it, that now my inexperienced fingers But strike the prelude of a loftier strain ? Or, must the lyre on which my spirit lingers Soon pause in silence, ne'er to sound again, Tho' it might shake the Anarch Custom's reign, And charm the minds of men to Truth's own sway Holier than was Amphion's? I would fain
Reply in hope—but I am worn away, And Death and Love are yet contending for their prey.