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PREFACE.

The changes which have taken place in the public taste as it respects Poetry during the last thirty years have been manifold and extraordinary. About the close of the eighteenth century, the only poems which were honoured with any marked share of popular favour, were of a DIDACTIC order; and although Cowper and Burns had already made their appearance above the literary horizon, the latter was comparatively unappreciated, and the former chiefly known by the least valuable and important portion of his writings.

more modern poets, Rogers and

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Campbell alone excited any particular attention. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey had published many of their most beautiful lyrical compositions, but as yet they had attracted little notice; and even those noble ballads of Campbell, on which his strongest claims to immortality will be found ultimately to rest, sank into insignificance before his longer and more elaborate poem. From this epoch until the publication of the poetical romances of Sir Walter Scott, there was a complete interregnum in the Parnassian Dynasty: the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel,” “Marmion,” and the “Lady of the Lake," produced, however, a total revolution in the popular taste; their author was elevated by almost unanimous consent to the vacant chair; the fashion for DIDACTIC POETRY declined ; and NARRATIVE, or rather de. SCRIPTIVE POETRY became at once the order of the day. Such indeed was the brilliancy which attended the rising of this new lumi. nary, that the light of numerous contempo

rary stars was entirely obscured by its brightness.

The publication of Childe Harold created another and most remarkable mutation in the fashion of the day. Epic, didactic, and descriptive poems alike ceased to be regarded; and an appetite was almost immediately created for personal POETRY, which had not merely a prospective, but equally a retrospective operation. Narrative poetry had now no longer any chance of success, unless the reflections and sentiments of the author were impersonated in his hero. A prejudice in favour of old habits of thought and criticism, however, led most of the reviewers of the day, to condemn, in Childe Harold, the very egotism which has since become the staple commodity of modern poetry. The Giaour; the Corsair, Lara, and a large proportion of Lord Byron's subsequent writings, abound all of them with those impassioned bursts of natural feeling-those forceful traits of individual character—which could only have

been drawn from the recesses of his own bosom; and which derive a tenfold interest from such an inference.

Nothing can be more erroneous than the supposition that the public is not interested in the private feelings, and aspirations of a poet. It is the peculiar attribute of genius to create in the minds of its readers a degree of sympathy with its lot, which gives a value and interest to every revelation with which it may deign to indulge the world; although the quantum of sympathy and excitement thus produced, must of course depend, for the most part, upon the poet's power of developing his sentiments in impassioned and energetic language. That such a power was possessed by Lord Byron, to an extent for which we should in vain seek for a parallel in any other writer, can scarcely be denied; and to this may in a great measure be ascribed the inextinguishable energy of his poetry, and the sudden and universal applause it has commanded. Impersonations of the more stormy

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