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cessful patriotism, and the universal toleration and
benevolence of true philanthropy; the treachery and The Poem which I now present to the world, is an barbarity of hired soldiers; vice not the object of attempt from which I scarcely dare to expect success, punishment and hatred, but kindness and pity; the and in which a writer of established fame might fail faithlessness of tyrants ; the confederacy of the Rulers without disgrace. It is an experiment on the temper of the World, and the restoration of the expelled of the public mind, as to how far a thirst for a happier Dynasty by foreign arms; the massacre and extermicondition of moral and political society survives, among nation of the Patriots, and the victory of established the enlightened and refined, the tempests which have power ; the consequences of legitimate despotism, civil shaken the age in which we live. I have sought to war, famine, plague, superstition, and an utter extincenlist the harmony of metrical language, the etherial tion of the domestic affections; the judicial murder of combinations of the fancy, the rapid and subtle transi the advocates of Liberty ; the temporary triumph of tions of human passion, all those elements which oppression, that secure earnest of its final and inevit. essentially compose a Poem, in the cause of a liberal able fall; the transient nature of ignorance and error, and comprehensive morality; and in the view of and the eternity of genius and virtue. Such is the kindling within the bosoms of my readers, a virtuous series of delineations of which the Poem consists. And enthusiasm for those doctrines of liberty and justice, if the lofty passions with which it has been my scope that faith and hope in something good, which neither to distinguish this story, shall not excite in the reader violence, por misrepresentation, nor prejudice, can ever a generous impulse, an ardent thirst for excellence, an totally extinguish among mankind.
interest profound and strong, such as belongs to no For this purpose, I have chosen a story of human meaner desires-let not the failure be imputed to a passion in its most universal character, diversified with natural unfitness for buman sympathy in these sublime moving and romantic adventures, and appealing, in and animating themes. It is the business of the Poet contempt of all artificial opinions or institutions, to the to communicate to others the pleasure and the enthusicommon sympathies of every human breast. I have asm arising out of those images and feelings, in the made no attempt to recommend the motives which I vivid presence of which within his own mind, consists would substitute for those at present governing man at once his inspiration and his reward. kind, by methodical and systematic argument.
1 The panic which, like an epidemic transport, seized would only awaken the feelings so that the reader upon all classes of men during the excesses consequent should see the beauty of true virtue, and be incited to upon the French Revolution, is gradually giving place those inquiries which have led to my moral and politi- to sanity. It has ceased to be believed, that whole cal creed, and that of some of the sublimest intellects generations of mankind ought to consign themselves to in the world. The Poem, therefore, (with the excep a hopeless inheritance of ignorance and misery, because tion of the first Canto, which is purely introductory,) a nation of men who had been dupes and slaves for is narrative, not didactic. It is a succession of pictures centuries, were incapable of conducting themselves illustrating the growth and progress of individual mind with the wisdom and tranquillity of freemen so soon aspiring after excellence, and devoted to the love of as some of their fetters were partially loosened. That mankind; its influence in refining and making pure their conduct could not have been marked by any other the most daring and uncommon impulses of the ima characters than ferocity and thoughtlessness, is the gination, the understanding, and the senses ; its impa- historical fact from which liberty derives all its recomtience at “all the oppressions which are done under mendations, and falsehood the worst features of its the sun ;” its tendency to awaken public hope and to deformity. There is a reflux in the tide of human enlighten and improve mankind; the rapid effects of things which bears the shipwrecked hopes of men into the application of that tendency; the awakening of a secure haven, after the storms are past. Methinks, an immense nation from their slavery and degradation those who now live have survived an age of despair. to a true sense of moral dignity and freedom; the The French Revolution may be considered as one bloodless dethronement of their oppressors, and the of those manifestations of a general state of feeling unveiling of the religious frauds by which they had among civilized mankind, produced by a defect of been deluded into submission; the tranquillity of suc correspondence between the knowledge existing in
society and the improvement or gradual abolition of what I have produced be worthless, it should still be political institutions. The year 1788 may be assumed properly my own. Nor have I permitted any system as the epoch of ono of the most important crises pro- relating to mere words, to divert the attention of the duced by this feeling. The sympathies connected with reader from whatever interest I may have succeeded that event extended to every bosom. The most gene in creating, to my own ingenuity in contriving to disrous and amiable datures were those which participated gust them according to the rules of criticism. I have the most extensively in these sympathies. But such simply clothed my thoughts in what appeared to me a degree of unmingled good was expected, as it was the most obvious and appropriate language. A perimpossible to realise. If the Revolution had been in son familiar with nature, and with the most celebrated every respect prosperous, then misrule and superstition productions of the human mind, can scarcely err in would lose half their claims to our abhorrence, as following the instinct, with respect to selection of lanfetters which the captive can unlock with the slightest guage, produced by that familiarity. motion of his fingers, and which do not eat with poison There is an education peculiarly fitted for a Poet, ous rust into the soul. The revulsion occasioned by without which, genius and sensibility can hardly fill the atrocities of the demagogucs and the re-establish the circle of their capacities. No education indeed ment of successive tyrannies in France was terrible, can entitle to this appellation a dull aud unobservant and felt in the remotest corner of the civilized world. mind, or one, though neither dull nor unobservant, in Could they listen to the plea of reason who had groaned which the channels of communication between thought under the calamities of a social state, according to the and expression have been obstructed or closed. How provisions of which, one man riots in luxury whilst far it is my fortune to belong to either of the latter another famishes for want of bread ? Can be who the classes, I cannot know. I aspire to be something day before was a trampled slave, suddenly become better. The circumstances of my accidental education liberal-minded, forbearing, and independent? This is have been favourable to this ambition. I have been the consequence of the habits of a state of society to familiar from boyhood with mountains and lakes, and be produced by resolute perseverance and indefatigable the sea, and the solitude of forests : Danger, which hope, and long-suffering and long-believing courage, sports upon the brink of precipices, has been my playand the systematic efforts of generations of men of I have trodden the glaciers of the Alps, and intellect and virtue. Such is the lesson which experi- lived under the eye of Mont Blanc. I have been a ence teaches now. But on the first reverses of hope wanderer among distant fields. I have sailed down in the progress of French liberty, the sanguine eager mighty rivers, and seen the sun rise and set, and the ness for good overleapt the solution of these questions, stars come forth, whilst I have sailed night and day and for a time extinguished itself in the unexpected. down a rapid stream among mountains. I have seen ness of their result. Thus many of the most ardent populous cities, have watched the passions which and tender-hearted of the worshippers of public good
rise and spread, and sink and change, amongst assem. have been morally ruined, by what a partial glimpse bled inultitudes of men. I have seen the theatre of of the events they deplored, appeared to show as the the more visible ravages of tyranny and war, cities and melancholy desolation of all their cherished hopes. villages reduced to scattered groups of black and roofHence gloom and misanthropy have become the cha less houses, and the naked inbabitants sitting famished racteristics of the age in which we live, the solace of upon their desolated thresholds. I have conversed a disappointment that unconsciously finds relief only with living men of genius. The poetry of ancient in the wilful exaggeration of its own despair. This Greece and Rome, and modern Italy, and our own influence has tainted the literature of the age with the country, has been to me like external nature, a pashopelessness of the minds from which it flows. Meta sion and an enjoyment. Such are the sources from physics, * and inquiries into moral and political science, which the materials for tho imagery of my Poem have have become little else than vain attempts to revive been drawn. I have considered Poetry in its most exploded superstitions, or sophisms like those t of comprehensive sense, and have read the Poets and the Mr. Malthus, calculated to lull the oppressors of Historians, and the Metaphysicians whose writings mankind into a security of everlasting triumph. Our have been accessiblo to me, and have looked upon the works of fiction and poetry have been overshadowed beautiful and majestic scenery of the earth as common by the same infectious gloom. But mankind appear sources of khose elements which it is the province of to me to be emerging from their trance. I am aware, the Poet to embody and combine. Yet the experienco methinks, of a slow, gradual, silent change. In that and the feelings to which I refer, do not in themselves belief I have composed the following Poem.
constitute men Poets, but only prepare them to be tho I do not presume to enter into competition with our
auditors of those who are. How far I shall be found greatest contemporary Poets. Yet I am unwilling to to possess that more essential attribute of Poetry, tho tread in the footsteps of any who have preceded me. power of awakening in others sensations like those I have sought to avoid the imitation of any style of which animate iny own bosom, is that which, to speak language or versification peculiar to the original minds sincerely, I know not; and which, with an acquiesof which it is the character, designing that even if cent and contented spirit, I expect to be taught by the
effect which I shall produce upon those whom I now * I ought to except Sir W. Drummond's “ Academical address. Questions ;" a volume of very acute and powerful meta I have avoided, as I have said before, the imitation physical criticism.
of any contemporary style. But there must be a resemIt is remarkable, as a symptom of the revival of public
blance, which does not depend upon their own will, hope, that Mr. Malthus has assigned, in the later editions
between all the writers of any particular age. They of his work, an indefinite dominion to moral restraint over
cannot escape from subjection to a common influence the principle of population. This concession answers all the inferences from his doctrine unfavourable to human * In this sense there may be such a thing as perfectiimprovement, and reduces the “ ESSAY ON POPULATION," bility in works of fiction, notwithstanding the concession to a commentary illustrative of the unanswerableness of often made by the advocates of human improvement that ** POLITICAL JUSTICE,"
perfectibility is a term applicable only to science.
which arises out of an infinite combination of circum to be derived from their virulent writings ! As it is, stances belonging to the times in which they live, fear I shall be malicious enough to be amused with though each is in a degree the author of the very influ- | their paltry tricks and lame invectives. Should the ence by which his being is thus pervaded. Thus, the Public judge that my composition is worthless, I shall tragic Poets of the age of Pericles ; the Italian revivers indeed bow before the tribunal from which Milton of ancient learning; those mighty intellects of our own received his crown of immortality, and shall seek to country that succeeded the Reformation, the translators gather, if I live, strength from that defeat, which may of the Bible, Shakspeare, Spenser, the Dramatists of nerve me to some new enterprise of thought which may the reign of Elizabeth, and Lord Bacon *; the colder not be worthless. I cannot conceive that Lucretius, spirits of the interval that succeeded ;-all resemble when he meditated that poein whose doctrines are yet each other, and differ from every other in their several the basis of our metaphysical knowledge, and whose classes. In this view of things, Ford can no more eloquence has been the wonder of mankind, wrote in be called the imitator of Shakspeare, than Shakspeare awe of such censure as the hired sophists of the impure the imitator of Ford. There were perhaps few other and superstitious noblemen of Rome might affix to points of resemblance between these two men, than what he should produce. It was at the period when that which the universal and inevitable influence of Greece was led captive, and Asia made tributary to the their age produced. And this is an influence which Republic, fast verging itself to slavery and ruin, that a neither the meanest scribbler, nor the sublimest genius multitude of Syrian captives, bigoted to the worsliip of any era, can escape; and which I have not attempted of their obscene Ashtaroth, and the unworthy success. to escape.
ors of Socrates and Zeno, found there a precarious subI have adopted the stanza of Spenser (a measure sistence by administering, under the name of freedmen, inexpressibly beautiful), not because I consider it a to the vices and vanities of the great. These wretched finer model of poetical harmouy than the blank verse men were skilled to plead, with a superficial but plauof Shakspeare and Milton, but because in the latter sible set of sophisms, in favour of that contempt for there is no shelter for mediocrity : you must either virtue which is the portion of slaves, and that faith succeed or fail. This perhaps an aspiring spirit should in portents, the most fatal substitute for benevolence desire. But I was enticed, also, by the brilliancy and in the imaginations of men, which, arising from the magnificence of sound which a mind that has been enslaved communities of the East, then first began to nourished upon musical thoughts, can produce by a overwhelin the western nations in its stream. Were just and harmonious arrangement of the pauses of this these the kind of men whose disapprobation the wise
Yet there will be found some instances and lofty-minded Lucretius should have regarded with where I have completely failed in this attempt, and a salutary awe? The latest and perhaps the meanest one, which I here request the reader to consider as an of those who follow in his footsteps, would disdain to erratum, where there is left most inadvertently an hold life on such conditions. alexandrine in the middle of a stanza.
The Poem now presented to the Public occupied But in this, as in every other respect, I have written little inore than six months in the composition. That fearlessly. It is the misfortune of this age, that its period has been devoted to the task with unremitting Writers, too thoughtless of immortality, are exquisitely
ardour and enthusiasm. I have exercised a watchful sensible to temporary praise or blame. They write aud earnest criticism on my work as it grew under my with the fear of Reviews before their
sys hands. I would willingly have sent it forth to the tem of criticism sprang up in that torpid interval when world with that perfection which long labour and reviPoetry was not. Poetry, and the art which professes
sion is said to bestow. But I found that if I should to regulate and limit its powers, cannot subsist together. gain something in exactness by this method, I might Longinus could not have been the contemporary of lose much of the newness and energy of imagery and Homer, nor Boileau of Horace. Yet this species of language as it flowed fresh from my mind. And criticism never presumed to assert an understanding of although the mere composition occupied no more than its own: it has always, unlike true science, followed, six months, the thoughts thus arranged were slowly not preceded, the opinion of mankind, and would even gathered in as many years. now bribe with worthless adulation some of our greatest I trust that the reader will carefully distinguish Poets to impose gratuitous fetters on their own imagin between those opinions which have a dramatic proations, and become unconscious accomplices in the daily priety in reference to the characters which they are murder of all genius either not so aspiring or not so designed to elucidate, and such as are properly my own. fortunate as their own, I have sought therefore to The erroneous and degrading idea which men have write, as I believe that Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton conceived of a Supreme Being, for instance, is spoken wrote, with an utter disregard of anonymous censure. against, but not the Supremo Being itself. The belief I am certain that calumny and misrepresentation, though which some superstitious persons whom I have brought
may move me to compassion, cannot disturb my upon the stige entertain of the Deity, as injurious to peace. I shall understand the expressive silence of the character of his benevolence, is widely different those sagacious enemies who dare not trust themselves from my own. In recommending also a great and to speak. I shall endeavour to extract from the midst important change in the spirit which animates the of insult, and contempt, and maledictions, those admo social institutions of mankind, I have avoided all nitions which may tend to correct whatever imperfections flattery to those violent and malignant passions of our such censurers maydiscoverin this my first serious appeal nature, which are ever on the watch to mingle with to the Public. If certain Critics were as clear-sighted and to alloy the most beneficial innovations. There as they are malignant, how great would be the benefit is no quarter given to Revenge, or Envy, or Prejudice.
Love is celebrated everywhere as the sole law which * Milton stands alone in the age which he illumined. should govern the moral world.
So now my summer-task is ended, Mary,
Thou Friend, whose presence on my wintry heart And I return to thee, mine own heart's home; Fell, like bright Spring upon some herbless plain, As to his Queen some victor Knight of Faëry, How beautiful and calm and free thou wert Earning bright spoils for her enchanted dome; In thy young wisdom, when the mortal chain Nor thou disdain, that ere my fame become Of Custom thou didst burst and rend in twain, A star among the stars of mortal night,
And walked as free as light the clouds among, If it indeed may cleave its natal gloom,
Which manyanenvious slave then breathed in vain Its doubtful promise thus I would unite
From his dim dungeon, and my spirit sprung With thy beloved name, thou Child of loveand light. To meet thee from the woes which had begirtit long.
Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear Friend, Now has descended a serener hour, when first
[pass. And with inconstant fortune, friends return; The clouds which wrap this world from youth did Though suffering leaves the knowledge and the I do remember well the hour which burst
power My spirit's sleep: a fresh May-dawn it was, Which says :—Let scorn be not repaid with scorn. When I walked forth upon the glittering grass, And from thy side two gentle babes are born And wept, I knew not why: until there rose To fill our home with smiles, and thus are we From the near school-room, voices, that, alas ! Most fortunate beneath life's beaming morn : Were but one echo from a world of woes
And these delights, and thou, have been to me The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes. The parents of the Song I consecrate to thee.
And then I clasped my hands and looked around,
Is it, that now my inexperienced fingers
And from that hour did I with earnest thought And what art thou? I know, but dare not speak:
They say that thou wert lovely from thy birth,
For, where the irresistible storm had cloven
One voice came forth from many a mighty spirit, For ever as the war became more fierce Which was the echo of three thousand years; Between the whirlwinds and the rack on high, And the tumultuous world stood mute to hear it, That
spot grew more serene; blue light did pierce As some lone man who in a desert hears
The woof of those white clouds, which seemed to lie The music of his home :-unwonted fears
Far, deep, and motionless; while through the sky Fell on the pale oppressors of our race,
The pallid semicircle of the moon And Faith, and Custom, and low-thoughted cares, Past on, in slow and moving majesty ; Like thunder-stricken dragons, for a space Its upper horn arrayed in mists, which soon Left the torn human heart, their food and dwelling- But slowly fled, like dew beneath the beams of noon.
place. Truth's deathless voice pauses among mankind ! I could not choose but gaze; a fascination If there must be no response to my cry
Dwelt in that moon, and sky, and clouds, which If men must rise and stamp with fury blind
drew On his pure name who loves them,—thou and I, My fancy thither, and in expectation Sweet Friend ! can look from our tranquillity Of what I knew not, I remained :- the hue Like lamps into the world's tempestuous night, Of the white moon, amid that heaven so blue, Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by Suddenly stained with shadow did appear; Which wrap them from the foundering seaman's A speck, a cloud, a shape, approaching grew, sight,
[light. Like a great ship in the sun's sinking sphere That burn from year to year with unextinguished Beheld afar at sea, and swift it came anear
Even like a bark, which from a chasm of moun
Dark, vast, and overhanging, on a river (tains, When the last hope of trampled France had failed
Which there collects the strength of all its founLike a brief dream of unremaining glory,
[quiver, From visions of despair I rose, and scaled
Comes forth, whilst with the speed its frame doth The peak of an aërial promontory, [hoary; Sails, oars, and stream, tending to one endeavour; Whose caverned base with the vexed surge was
So, from that chasm of light a winged Form And saw the golden dawn break forth, and waken
On all the winds of heaven approaching ever Each cloud, and every wave :--but transitory
Floated, dilating as it came: the storm The calm: for sudden, the firm earth was shaken, Pursued it with fierce blasts, and lightnings swift As if by the last wreck its frame were overtaken.
So as I stood, one blast of muttering thunder
A course precipitous, of dizzy speed,
Hark! 'tis the rushing of a wind that sweeps A shaft of light upon its wings descended, Earth and the ocean. See! the lightnings yawn And every golden feather gleamed thereinDeluging Heaven with fire, and the lashed deeps Feather and scale inextricably blended. Glitter and boil beneath : it rages on,
The Serpent's mailed and many-coloured skin One mighty stream, whirlwind and waves up Shone through the plumes; its coils were twined [thrown,
within Lightning, and hail, and darkness eddying by,
By many a swollen and knotted fold, and high There is a pause-the sea-birds, that were gone And far, the neck receding lithe and thin, Into their caves to shriek, come forth to spy Sustained a crested head, which warily What calm has fall’n on earth, what light is in the sky. Shifted and glanced before the Eagle's steadfast eye.