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A bough, thin hung with leares, is all my tree;
RIME DELL' ARIOSTO.
HRADBURY AND EVANS, PRINTERS,
BOU VERIK STREET
I INTENDED to write a very short preface to the volume here submitted to the public indulgence ; but finding the small number of pages to which it amounted, compared with the price put upon it in the advertisement, I wished to do what I could towards bringing it to a becoming size. To add verses which I had rejected, would have been an injustice both to the readers and myself. It was suggested to me that a “good gossiping preface would not be ill received ; and I therefore write one in the true spirit of that word, leaving it to their good nature to interpret it accordingly.
I am so aware that the world is rich in books of all sorts, and that its attention, beyond the moment, is not to be looked for by voluminous writers, except
those of the first order, that I have done my best to render my verses as little unworthy of re-perusal, as correction and omission could make them. I have availed myself of the criticism both of friends and enemies; and have been so willing to construe in my disfavour any doubts which arose in my own mind, that the volume does not contain above a third of the verses I have written. I took for granted, that an author's self-love is pretty sure not to be too hard upon him, and adopted the principle of making the doubt itself a sentence of condemnation. Upon this I have acted in every instance, with the exception of the Fragments upon the Nymphs, the Sonnet on the Nile, and the passages out of the Bacchus in Tuscany. The fragments, and the sonnet, a partial friend induced me not to discard: otherwise, with a doubt perhaps in favour of the second and eighth lines of the sonnet, I felt that they did not possess enough of the subtler and remoter spirit of poetry, demanded by the titles. Of the Bacchus I retained a few specimens, partly for the sake of old associations, and of the tune echoed into it from the Italian ; but chiefly in consequence of discovering that it had found favour in unexpected quarters.
If it be asked, why I have not been as scrupulous with the whole volume, or whether I look upon the
rest of it as being free from objection, I answer, that I only believe it to be as good as it was in the writer's power to make it. What that power may be, if
any, is another matter. At all events, I cannot accuse myself of taking no pains to satisfy my own judgment, or to bespeak the reader's good wishes. I have not shovelled my verses out by cart-loads, leaving the public, much less another generation, to save me the trouble : of selection! I do not believe that other generations will take the trouble to 'rake for jewels in much nobler dust than mine. Posterity is too rich and idle. The only hope I can have of coming into any one's hands, and exciting his attention beyond the moment, is by putting my workmanship, such as it is, into its best and compactest state.
The truth is, I have such a reverence for poetry, pre-eminently so called, (by which I mean that which posterity and the greatest poets agree to call such), that I should not dare to apply the term to anything written by me in verse, were I not fortunate enough to be of opinion, that poetry, like the trees and flowers, is not of one class only ; but that if the plant comes out of Nature's hands, and not the gauze-maker's, it is still a plant, and has ground for it. All houses are not palaces, nor every shrine a cathedral. In domo patris
mei (not to speak it profanely) mansiones multe sunt.
Poetry, in its highest sense, belongs exclusively to such men as Shakspeare, Spenser, and others, who possessed the deepest insight into the spirit and sympathies of all things; but poetry, in the most comprehensive application of the term, I take to be the flower of any kind of experience, rooted in truth, and issuing forth into beauty. All that the critic has a right to demand of it, according to its degree, is, that it should spring out of a real impulse, be consistent in its parts, and shaped into some characteristic harmony of verse. Without these requisites, (apart from fleeting and artificial causes,) the world will scarcely look at any poetical production a second time; whereas, if it
possess them, the humblest poetry stands a chance of surviving not only whatever is falsely so called, but much that contains, here and there, more poetical passages than itself; passages that are the fits and starts of a fancy without judgment,—the incoherences of a nature, poetical only by convulsion, but prosaic in its ordinary strength.
Thus, in their several kinds, we have the poetry of thought and passion in Shakspeare and Chaucer ; of poetical abstraction and enjoyment in Spenser; of scho