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So wenig er auch bestimmt seyn mag, andere zu belehren, so wunscht er doch sich denen mitzutheilen, die er sich gleichgesinnt weiss (oder hofft), deren Anzahl aber in der Breite der Welt zerstreut ist; er wünscht sein Verhältniss zu den áltesten Freunden dadurch wieder anzuknüpfen, mit neuen es fortzusetzen, und in der letzen Generation sich wieder andere für seine übrige Lebenszeit zu gewinnen. Er wünscht der Jugend die Umwege zu ersparen, auf denen er sich selbst verirrte. (Goethe. Einleitung in die Propyläen.)
TRANSLATION. Little call as he may have to instruct others, he wishes nevertheless to open out his heart to such as he either knows or hopes to be of like mind with himself, but who are widely scattered in the world: he wishes to knit anew his connections with his oldest friends, to continue those recently formed, and to win other friends among the rising generation for the remaining course of his life. He wishes to spare the young those circuitous paths, on which he himself had lost his way.
MOTIVES TO THE PRESENT WORK-RECEPTION OF THE AUTHOR'S FIRST PUBLICATION-DISCIPLINE OF HIS TASTE AT SCHOOLEFFECT OF CONTEMPORARY WRITERS ON YOUTHFUL
BETWEEN THE POETS BE
FORE AND SINCE POPE.
It has been my lot to have had my name introduced both in conversation and in print, more frequently than I find it easy to explain, whether I consider the fewness, unimportance, and limited circulation of my writings, or the retirement and distance, in which I have lived, both from the literary and political world. Most often it has been connected with some charge which I could not acknowledge, or some principle which I had never entertained. Nevertheless, had I had no other motive or incitement, the reader would not have been troubled with this exculpation. What my additional purposes were, will be seen in the following pages. It will be found, that the least of what I have written concerns myself personally. I have used the narration chiefly for the purpose of giving a continuity to the work, in part for the sake of the miscellaneous reflections suggested to me by particular events, but still more as introductory to a statement of my principles in Politics, Religion, and Philosophy, and an application of the rules, deduced from philosophical principles, to poetry and criticism. But of the objects which I proposed to myself, it was not the least important to effect, as far as possible, a settlement of the long-continued controversy concerning the true nature of poetic diction; and at the same time to divine with the utmost
impartiality the real poetic character of the poet, by whose writings this controversy was first kindled, and has been since fuelled and fanned.*
In the spring of 1796, when I had but little passed the verge of manhood, I published a small volume of juvenile poems.† They were received with a degree of favor, which, young as I was, I well know was bestowed on them not so much for any positive merit, as because they were considered buds of hope, and promises of better works to come. The critics of that day, the most flattering, equally with the severest, concurred in objecting to them obscurity, a general turgidness of diction, and a profusion of new coined double epithets. The first is the fault which
* [The first volume of the Lyrical Ballads was published in the summer of 1798, by Mr. Joseph Cottle, of Bristol, who purchased the copyright for thirty guineas. That copyright was afterwards transferred with others to Messrs. Longman & Co. And it is related by Mr. Cottle, that in estimating the value the Lyrical Ballads were reckoned as nothing by the head of that firm. This copyright was subsequently given back to Mr. Cottle, and by him restored to Mr. Wordsworth. Would that he and his might hold it
The second volume, with Mr. Wordsworth's Preface, appeared in 1800.Ed.]
† [This volume was published by Mr. Cottle at Bristol in the Spring of 1796, in conjunction with the Messrs. Robinson in London. It contained fifty-one small pieces, of which the best known at the present day are the Religious Musings, Monody on Chatterton, Song of the Pixies, and the exquisite lines written at Clevedon, beginning, "My pensive Sara, &c." To this poem Mr. Coleridge many years afterwards added the magnificent passage
O the one life within us and abroad,
and the mute still air Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
Poet. Works, p. 147.
He was then twenty-three years and a half old.-Ed.]
The authority of Milton and Shakspeare may be usefully pointed out to young authors. In the Comus and other early poems of Milton there is a superfluity of double epithets; while in the Paradise Lost we find very few, in the Paradise Regained scarce any. The same remark holds almost equally true of the Love's Labor Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Venus and Adonis, and Lucrece, compared with Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet of our great Dramatist. The rule for the admission of double epithets seems to be this either that they should be already denizens of our language, such as blood-stained, terror-stricken, self-applauding: or when a new epithet, or
a writer is the least able to detect in his own compositions: and my mind was not then sufficiently disciplined to receive the authority of others, as a substitute for my own conviction. Satisfied that the thoughts, such as they were, could not have been expressed otherwise, or at least more perspicuously, I forgot to inquire, whether the thoughts themselves did not demand a degree of attention unsuitable to the nature and objects of poetry. This remark however applies chiefly, though not exclusively, to the Religious Musings. The remainder of the charge I admitted to its full extent, and not without sincere acknowledgments both to my private and public censors for their friendly admonitions. In the after editions,* I pruned the double epithets with no sparing hand, and used my best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction; though in truth, these parasite plants of youthful poetry had insinuated themselves into my longer poems with such intricacy of union, that I was often obliged to omit disentangling the weed, from the fear of snapping the flower.
one found in books only, is hazarded, that it, at least, be one word, not two words made one by mere virtue of the printer's hyphen. A language which, like the English, is almost without cases, is indeed in its very genius unfitted for compounds. If a writer, every time a compounded word suggests itself to him, would seek for some other mode of expressing the same sense, the chances are always greatly in favor of his finding a better word. Ut tanquam scopulum sic fugias insolens verbum, is the wise advice of Cæsar to the Roman Orators,* and the precept applies with double force to the writers in our own language. But it must not be forgotten, that the same Cæsar wrote a Treatise for the purpose of reforming the ordinary language by bringing it to a greater accordance with the principles of logic or universal grammar.
* [The second edition appeared in May, 1797, with the same publishers' names. Upwards of twenty of the pieces contained in the first edition were omitted in this, and ten new poems were added. Amongst these latter were the Dedication to his brother, the Reverend George Coleridge, the Ode on the Departing Year, and the Reflections on having left a place of Retirement. (Poet. Works.) The volume comprised poems by Lamb and Lloyd, and on the title-page was printed the prophetic aspiration :-Duplex nobis vinculum, et amicitiæ junctarumque Camœnarum ;—quod utinam neque mors solvat; neque temporis longinquitas!--Ed.]
* [The expression is so given by A. Gellius (Noct. Att. i. 10). Macrobius says, infrequens atque insolens verbum. (Saturn, i. 5.)—Ed.]
[De Analogia Libri duo, the first of which contained the precept above mentioned.-Ed.]