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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
I return my acknowledgments to the different Reviewers for the assistance which they have afforded me, in detecting my poetic deficiencies. I have endeavoured to avail myself of their remarks: one third of the former volume I have omitted, and the imperfections of the republished part must be considered as errors of taste, not faults of carelessness. My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion of double epithets, and a general turgidness. I have pruned the double epithets with no sparing hand; and used my best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction. This latter fault, however, had insinuated itself into my Religious Musings with such intricacy of union, that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle the weed, from the fear of snapping the flower. A third, and heavier accusation has been brought against me, that of obscurity; but not, I think, with equal justice. An author is obscure, when his conceptions are dim and imperfect, and his language incorrect, or unappropriate, or involved. A poem that abounds in allusions, like the Bard of Gray, or one that impersonates high and ab
stract truths, like Collin's Ode on the Poetical Character --claims not to be popular—but should be acquitted of obscurity. The deficiency is in the reader. But this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and rapid, must expect from his contemporaries. Milton did not escape it ; and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now hear no more of it; not that their poems are better understood at present, than they were at their first publication; but their fame is established; and a critic would accuse himself of frigidity or inattention, who should profess not to understand them. But a living writer is yet sub judice ; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider him as lost beneath, than as soaring above, us. man expect from my poems the same eas ess of style which he admires in a drinking-song, for him I have not written. Intelligibilia, non intellectum adfero.
I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings; and I consider myself as having been amply repayed without either. Poetry has been to me its own ceeding great reward;" it has soothed my afflictions ; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude ; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.
There were inserted in my former edition, a few sonnets of my friend and old school-fellow, CHARLES LAMB. He has now communicated to me a complete Collection of all his Poems; quce qui non prorsus amet,
illum omnes et Virtutes et Veneres odore. With respect to my own share of the volume, I have omitted a third of the former edition, and added almost an equal number. The poems thus added are marked in the Contents by Italics.
S. T. C. Stowey, May, 1797.
Το μέλλον ήξει. Και συ μ' εν τάχει παρών
Æschy. Agamem. 1225.
Tue Ode commences with an address to the Divine Providence, that regulates into one vast harmony all the events of time however calamitous some of them may appear to mortals. The second Strophe calls on men to suspend their private joys and sorrows, and devote them, for a while, to the cause of human nature in general. The first epode speaks of the Empress of Russia, who died of an apoplexy on the 17th of November, 1796, having just concluded a subsidiary treaty with the Kings combined against France. The first and second Antistrophe describe the image of the departing year, &c., as in a vision. The second epode prophesies in anguish of spirit, the downfall of this country.
Spirit! who sweepest the wild harp of Time,
It is most hard with an untroubled ear
Thy dark inwoven harmonies to hear !
With inward stillness, and a bowed mind:
This Ode was written on the 24th, 25th, and 26th days of December, 1795; and published separately on the last day of the year.