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THE COLLECTED EDITION OF TEN VOLUMES,
PUBLISHED IN 1837, 1838.
long after it was written; inasmuch as it must be impossible to recall the precise train of
thought in which any passage was conceived, THE FIRST VOLUME.
and the considerations upon which not the
single verse alone but the whole sentence, or At the age of sixty-three I have undertaken paragraph, had been constructed: but with to collect and edite my Poetical Works, with regard to more important changes, there could the last corrections that I can expect to bestow be no danger of introducing any discrepance in upon them. They have obtained a reputation style. With juvenile pieces the case is diffeequal to my wishes ; and I have this ground rent. From these the faults of diction have for hoping it may not be deemed hereafter been weeded wherever it could be done withmore than commensurate with their deserts, out more trouble than the composition origithat it has been gained without ever accommoda- nally cost, and than the piece itself was worth. ting myself to the taste or fashion of the times. But inherent faults of conception and structure Thus to collect and revise them is a duty which are incurable; and it would have been mere I owe to that part of the Public by whom they waste of time to recompose what it was imposhave been auspiciously received, and to those sible otherwise to amend. who will take a lively concern in my good name If these poems had been now for the first when I shall have departed.
time to be made public, there ar some aniong The arrangement was the first thing to be them which, instead of being committed to the considered. In this the order wherein the re-press, would have been consigned to the flames ; spective poems were written has been observed, not for any disgrace which could be reflected so far as was compatible with a convenient upon me by the crude compositions of my classification. Such order is useful to those youth, nor for any harm which they could who read critically, and desire to trace the possibly do the reader, but merely that they progress of an author's mind in his writings ; might not cumber the collection. But“ nescit and by affixing dates to the minor pieces, vox missa reverti.” Pirated editions would under whatever head they are disposed, the hold out as a recommendation, that they conobject is sufficiently attained.
tained what I had chosen to suppress, and thus ! Next came the question of correction. There it becomes prudent, and therefore proper, that was no difficulty with those poems which were such pieces should be retained. composed after the author had acquired his art It has ever been a rule with me when I have (so far as he has acquired it), and after his imitated a passage, or borrowed an expression, opinions were matured. It was only necessary to acknowledge the specific obligation. Upon to bear in mind the risk there must ever be of the present occasion it behoves me to state injuring a poem by verbal alterations made the more general and therefore more important
FER FRON C.
obligations which I am conscious of owing My obligation to Dr. Sayers is of a different either to my predecessors, or my contemporaries. kind. Every one who has an ear for metre
My first attempts in verse were much too and a heart for poetry, must have felt how early to be imitative, but I was fortunate perfectly the metre of Collins's “ Ode to Eveenough to find my way, when very young, into ning" is in accordance with the imagery the right path. I read the “ Jerusalem Deli- and the feeling. None of the experiments vered” and the “ Orlando Furioso" again and which were made of other unrhymed stanzas again, in Hoole's translations: it was for the proved successful. They were either in sake of their stories that I perused and re-per- strongly marked and well-known measures used these poems with ever new delight; and which unavoidably led the reader to expect by bringing them thus within my reach in boy- rhyme, and consequently baulked him when he hood, the translator rendered me a service looked for it; or they were in stanzas as cumwhich, when I look back upon my intellectual brous as they were ill constructed. Dr. Sayers life, I cannot estimate too highly. I owe him went upon a different principle, and succeeded much also for his notes, not only for the in- admirably. I read his “Dramatic Sketches of formation concerning other Italian romances Northern Mythology” when they were first which they imparted, but also for introducing published, and convinced myself when I had me to Spenser ; – how early, an incident which acquired some skill in versification, that the I well remember may show. Going with a kind of verse in which his choruses were comrelation into Bull's circulating library at Bath posed was not less applicable to narration than (an excellent one for those days), and asking to lyrical poetry. Soon after I had begun the whether they had the “Faery Queen,” the per- Arabian romance, for which this measure seemson who managed the shop said “yes, they had ed the most appropriate vehicle, “ Gebir” fell it, but it was in obsolete language, and the into my hands, and my verse was greatly imyoung gentleman would not understand it." proved by it, both in vividness and strength. But I, who had learned all I then knew of the Several years elapsed before I knew that history of England from Shakespear, and who Walter Landor was the author, and more had moreover read Beaumont and Fletcher, before I had the good fortune to meet the perfound no difficulty in Spenser's English, and son to whom I felt myself thus beholden. The felt in the beauty of his versification a charm days which I have passed with him in the Vale in poetry of which I had never been fully of Ewias, at Como, and lastly in the neighboursensible before. From that time I took Spenser hood of Bristol, are some of those which have for my master. I drank also betimes of left with me “ a joy for memory." Chaucer's well. The taste which had been I have thus acknowledged all the specific acquired in that school was confirmed by obligations to my elders or contemporaries in Percy's “Reliques" and Warton's “ History the art, of which I am distinctly conscious. The of English Poetry;" and a little later by advantages arising from intimate intercourse Homer and the Bible It was not likely to be with those who were engaged in similar purcorrupted afterwards.
suits cannot be in like manner specified, beMy school-boy verses savoured of Gray, cause in their nature they are imperceptible ; Mason, and my predecessor Warton; and in but of such advantages no man has ever posthe best of my juvenile pieces it may be seen sessed more or greater, than at different times how much the writer's mind had been imbued it has been my lot to enjoy. Personal attachby Akenside. I am conscious also of having ment first, and family circumstances afterderived much benefit at one time from Cowper, wards, connected me long and closely with and more from Bowles ; for which, and for the Mr. Coleridge; and three-and-thirty years delight which his poems gave me at an age have ratified a friendship with Mr. Wordswhen we are most susceptible of such delight, worth, which we believe will not terminate my good friend at Bremhill, to whom I was with this life, and which it is a pleasure for us then and long afterwards personally unknown, to know will be continued and cherished as an will allow me to make this grateful and cordial heir-loom by those who are dearest to us both. acknowledgment.
When I add what has been the greatest of
with thee comes
all advantages, that I have passed more than school ; between the date of these and of the half my life in retirement, conversing with latest there is an interval of six-and-forty years: books rather than men, constantly and unweari- as much difference, therefore, may be perceived ably engaged in literary pursuits, communing in them, as in the different stages of life from with my own heart, and taking that course boyhood to old age. which upon mature consideration seemed best Some of the earliest appeared in a little to myself, I have said every thing necessary volume published at Bath in the autumn of to account for the characteristics of my poetry, 1794, with this title :- “Poems, containing the whatever they may be.
Retrospect, &c. by Robert Lovell and Robert It was in a mood resembling in no slight de- Southey, 1795;" and with this mottogree that wherewith a person in sound health, both of body and mind, makes his will and sets his worldly affairs in order, that I entered upon
At the end of that volume, Joan of Arc was the serious task of arranging and revising the announced as to be published by subscription. whole of my poetical works. What, indeed, Others were published at Bristol, 1797, in a was it but to bring in review before me the single volume, with this motto from Akendreams and aspirations of my youth, and the side :-
“ Goddess of the Lyre, feelings whereto I had given that free utterance which by the usages of this world is per- Majestic Truth; and where Truth deigns to come
Her sister Liberty will not be far." mitted to us in poetry, and in poetry alone ?
A second volume followed at Bristol in 1799, Of the smaller pieces in this collection there is scarcely one concerning which I cannot vividly after the second edition of Joan of Arc, and call to mind when and where it was composed.
commencing with the Vision of the Maid of I have perfect recollection of the spots where Orleans. The motto to this was from the Epimany, not of the scenes only, but of the images logue to Spenser’s Shepherds’ Calendar : which I have described from nature, were ob- “ The better, please; the worse, displease: I ask no more." served and noted.' And how would it be pos- In the third edition of Joan of Arc, the sible for me to forget the interest taken in Vision was printed separately, at the end; and these poems, especially the longer and more its place was supplied in the second edition of ambitious works, by those persons nearest and the Poems by miscellaneous pieces. dearest to me then, who witnessed their growth A separate volume, entitled “Metrical Tales and completion ? Well may it be called a and other Poems,” was published in 1805, with serious task thus to resuscitate the past! But this advertisement:—“These Poems were pubserious though it be, it is not painful to one lished some years ago in the Annual Anthology. who knows that the end of his journey cannot (Bristol, 1799, 1800.) They have now been be far distant, and, by the blessing of God, revised and printed in this collected form, looks on to its termination with sure and cer- because they have pleased those readers whom tain hope.
the Author was most desirous of pleasing. Let Keswick, May 10. 1837.
them be considered as the desultory productions of a man sedulously employed upon better things."
These various pieces were re-arranged in PREFACE
three volumes, under the title of Minor Poems,
in 1815, with this motto, THE SECOND VOLUME,
"Nos hæc novimus esse nihil ;" and they were published a second time in the
same form, 1823. NILE AND MINOR POEMS,"
The Ballads and Metrical Tales contained in THE TRIUMPH OF WOMAN," AND ENDING WITH those volumes, belong to a different part of this HYMN TO THE PENATES."
collection; their other contents are comprised The earliest pieces in these Juvenile and Minor here; and the present volume consists, with Poems were written before the writer had left very few exceptions, of pieces written in youth
THE FIRST OF TWO VOLUMES ENTITLED JUVE
or early manhood. One of these written in my guest, and require monarchical respect,) with twentieth year, not having been published at hasty provisions ; as if a poet might imitate the the time, would never have been made public familiar despatch of faulconers, mount his Peby my own act and deed; but as Wat Tyler gasus, unhood his Muse, and, with a few flights, obtained considerable notoriety upon its surrep- boast he hath provided a feast for a prince. titious publication, it seemed proper that a Such posting upon Pegasus I have long since production which will be specially noticed foreborne." Yet this eminently thoughtful whenever the author shall be delivered over poet was so far from seeking to suppress the to the biographers, should be included here. crude compositions which he thus condemned, They who may desire to know more than is that he often expressed a great desire to see all stated in the advertisement now prefixed to it, his pieces collected in one volume; and, conare referred to a Letter addressed to William formably to his wish, they were so collected, Smith, Esq. M. P., 1817, reprinted in the after his decease, by his widow and his friend second volume of my Essays Moral and Po- Herringman the bookseller. litical, 1832.
Agreeing with Davenant in condemning the The second volume of this part of the Col- greater part of my juvenile pieces, it is only lection contains one juvenile piece, and many as crudities that I condemn them; for in all which were written in early manhood. The that I have written, whether in prose or verse, remainder were composed in middle or later there has never been a line which for any comlife, and comprise (with one exception, that punctious reason, living or dying, I could will more conveniently be arranged elsewhere,) wish to blot. all the odes which as Poet Laureat I have Davenant had not changed his opinion of his written upon national occasions. Of these the own youthful productions so as to overlook in Carmen Triumphale, and the Carmina Aulica, his age the defects which he had once clearly were separately published in quarto in 1814, and perceived; but he knew that pieces which it reprinted together in a little ime in 1821. would indeed have been presumptuous to re
The Juvenile and Minor Poems in this Col- produce on the score of their merit, might yet lection bear an inconsiderable proportion to be deemed worthy of preservation on other those of substantive length: for a small part grounds; that to lis family and friends, and only of my youthful effusions were spared from to those who might take any interest in English those autos-da-fé in which from time to time piles poetry hereafter, they would possess peculiar upon piles have been consumed. In middle value, as characteristic memorials of one who life works of greater extent, or of a different had held no inconsiderable place in the literature kind, left me little leisure for occasional poetry; of his own times ; feeling, too, that he was not the impulse ceased, and latterly the inclination likely to be forgotten by posterity, he thought was so seldom felt, that it required an effort to that after the specimen which he had produced call it forth.
in his Gondibert of a great and elaborate poem, Sir William Davenant, in the Preface to his early attempts would be regarded with Gondibert, “ took occasion to accuse and con- curiosity by such of his successors as should, demn all those hasty digestions of thought like him, study poetry as an art,— for as an art which were published in his youth; a sentence, it must be studied by those who would excel said he, not pronounced out of melancholy in it, though excellence in it is not attainable rigour, but from a cheerful obedience to the by art alone. just authority of experience. For that grave The cases are very few in which any thing mistress of the world, experience, in whose more can be inferred from juvenile poetry, profitable school those before the Flood stayed than that the aspirant possesses imitative talent, long, but we, like wanton children, come thither and the power of versifying, for which, as for late, yet too soon are called out of it, and fetched music, there must be a certain natural aptitude. home by death,) hath taught me that the en- It is not merely because “ they have lacked genderings of unripe age become abortive and culture and the inspiring aid of books*” that deformed; and that 'tis a high presumption to so many poets who have been “sown by Nature," entertain a nation (who are a poet's standing
THE SECOND OF
have “wanted the accomplishment of verse," ductions to the press, for there are obstacles and brought forth no fruit after their kind. enough in the way of publication. Looking Men of the highest culture, of whose poetical back upon my own career, and acknowledging temperament no doubt can be entertained, and my imprudence in this respect, I have neverwho had “ taken to the height the measure of theless no cause to wish that I had pursued a themselves," have yet failed in their endeavour different course. In this, as in other circumto become poets, for want of that accomplish- stances of my life, I have reason to be thankful ment. It is frequently possessed without any to that merciful Providence which shaped the other qualification, or any capacity for improve- ends that I had roughly hewn for myself
. ment; but then the innate and incurable defect
Keswick, Sept. 30. 1837. that renders it abortive, is at once apparent.
The state of literature in this kingdom during the last fifty years has produced the same effect upon poetry that academies produce upon paint
PREFACE ing; in both arts every possible assistance is afforded to imitative talents, and in both they are carried as far as the talent of imitation can
THE THIRD VOLUME, reach. But there is one respect in which poetry differs widely from the sister arts. Its fairest
JUVENILE AND MINOR POEMS." promise frequently proves deceitful, whereas both in painting and music the early indications In a former Preface my obligations to Akenside of genius are unequivocal. The children who were acknowledged, with especial reference to were called musical prodigies, have become the Hymn to the Penates; the earliest of my great musicians; and great painters, as far as Inscriptions also originated in the pleasure their history is known, have displayed in child- with which I perused those of this favourite hood that accuracy of eye, and dexterity of author. Others of a later date bear a nearer hand, and shaping faculty, which are the prime resemblance to the general character of Chiarequisites for their calling. But it is often brera's epitaphs. Those which relate to the found that young poets of whom great expect- Peninsular War are part of a series which I ations were formed, have made no progress, once hoped to have completed. The epitaph and have even fallen short of their first per- for Bishop Butler was originally composed in formances. It may be said that this is because the lapidary style, to suit the monument in men apply themselves to music and to painting Bristol Cathedral : it has been remodelled here, as their professions, but that no one makes that I might express myself more at length, poetry the business of his life. This, however, and in a style more accordant with my own is not the only reason : the indications, as has judgement. already been observed, are far less certain ; and One thing remains to be explained, and I the circumstances of society are far less favour- shall then have said all that it becomes me to able for the moral and intellectual culture say concerning these Minor Poems. which is required for all the higher branches It was stated in some of the newspapers that of poetry, .. all indeed that deserves the name. Walter Scott and myself became competitors
My advice as to publishing, has often been for the Poet-Laureateship upon the death of asked by young poets, who suppose that expe- Mr. Pye; that we met accidentally at the Prince rience has qualified me to give it, and who have Regent's levee, each in pursuit of his pretensions, not yet learnt how seldom advice is taken, and and that some words which were not over-courhow little therefore it is worth. As a general teous on either side passed between us on the rule, it may be said that one who is not deceived occasion ;-- to such impudent fabrications will in the estimate which he has formed of his own those persons resort who make it their business powers, can neither write too much in his youth, i to pander for public curiosity. The circumnor publish too little. It cannot, however, be stances relating to that appointment have been needful to caution the present race of poetical made known in Mr. Lockhart's Life of Sir adventures against hurrying with their pro- Walter. His conduct was, as it always was,