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outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect, where it exists, is more dishonourable to the Writer's own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe
habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken, I can have little right to the aame of a Poet.
For all good poetry is the
spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the rather to nature than to manners, such as exist. now, and will probably always exist, and which from their constitution may be distinctly and profitably contemplated. I will not abuse the indulgence of my Reader by dwelling longer upon this subject; but it is proper that I should mention one other circumstance which distinguishes these Poems from the popular Poetry of the day ; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling. My mean-.. ing will be rendered perfectly intelligible by referring my Reader to the Poems entitled POOR SUSAN and the ChildLESS FATHER, particularly to the last Stanza of the latter Poem.
I will not suffer a sense of false modesty to prevent' me from asserting, that I point my Reader's attention to this mark of distinction, far less for the sake of these particular Poems than from the
general importance of the subject. The subject is indeed important ! For the human mind is capable of being excited without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity. who does not know this, and who does not fur. ther know, that one being is elevated above another, in proportion as he possesses this capa. bility. It has therefore appeared to me, that toendeavour to produce or enlarge this capability is one of the best services in which, at any period, a Writer can be engaged; but this service, excel-lent at all times, is especially so at the present day. For a multitude of causes, unknown to former“ times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national
events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craying for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have .conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespear and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse.- When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation, I am almost ashained to have spoken of the feeble effort with which I have endeavoured to counteract it; and, reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy, had I not a deep impression of certain