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COLLECTED BY HIMSELF.
IN TEN VOLUMES.
LONGMAN, BROWN, GREEN, AND LONGMANS,
At the age of sixty-three I have undertaken to collect and edite my Poetical Works, with the last corrections that I can expect to bestow upon them. They have obtained a reputation equal to my wishes; and I have this ground for hoping it may not be deemed hereafter more than commensurate with their deserts, that it has been gained without ever accommodating myself to the taste or fashion of the times. Thus to collect and revise them is a duty which I owe to that part of the Public by whom they have been auspiciously received, and to those who will take a lively concern in my good name when I shall have departed.
The arrangement was the first thing to be considered. In this the order wherein the respective poems were written has been observed, so far as was compatible with a convenient classification. Such order is useful to those who read critically, and desire to trace the progress of an author's mind in his writings; and by affixing dates to the minor pieces, under whatever head they are disposed, the object is sufficiently attained.
Next came the question of correction. There was no difficulty with those poems which were composed after the author had acquired his art (so far as he has acquired it), and after his opinions were matured. It was only necessary to bear in mind the risk there must ever be of injuring a poem by verbal alterations made long after it was written ; inasmuch as it must be impossible to recall the precise train of thought in which any passage was conceived, and the considerations upon which not the single verse alone but the whole sentence, or paragraph, had been constructed: but with regard to more important changes, there could be no danger of introducing any discrepance in style. With juvenile pieces the case is different. From these the faults of diction have been weeded, wherever it could be done without more trouble than the composition originally cost, and than the piece itself was worth. But inherent faults of conception and structure are incurable; and it would have been mere waste of time to recompose what it was impossible otherwise to amend.
If these poems had been now for the first time to be made public, there are some among them which, instead of being committed to the press, would have been consigned to the flames; not for any disgrace which could be reflected upon me by the crude compositions of my youth, nor for any harm wnich they could possibly do the reader, but merely that they might not cumber the collection. But " nescit vox missa reverti.” Pirated editions would hold out as a recommendation, that they contained what I had chosen to suppress, and thus it becomes prudent, and therefore proper, that such pieces should be retained.
It has ever been a rule with me when I have imitated a passage, or borrowed an expression, to acknowledge the specific obligation. Upon the present occasion it behoves me to state the more general and therefore more important obligations which I am conscious of owing either to my predecessors, or my contemporaries.
My first attempts in verse were much too early to be imitative, but I was fortunate enough to find my way, when
very young, into the right path. I read the “ Jerusalem Delivered” and the “Orlando Furioso” again and again, in Hoole's translations; it was for the sake of their stories that I perused and re-perused these poems with ever new delight; and by bringing them thus within my reach in boyhood, the translator rendered me a service which, when I