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The following poem was written, for the most part, amidst the scenes which it attempts to describe. It was begun in Albania ; and the parts relative to Spain and Portugal were composed from the author's observations in those countries. Thus much it may be necessary to state for the correctness of the descriptions. The scenes attempted to be sketched are in Spain, Portugal, Epirus, Acarnania, and Greece. There for the present the poem stops : its reception will determine whether the author may venture to conduct his readers to the capital of the East, through Ionia and Phrygia : these two cantos are merely experimental.
A fictitious character is introduced for the sake of giving some connexion to the piece ; which, however, makes no pretension to regularity. It has been suggested to me by friends, on whose opinions I set a high value, that in this fictitious character, «Childe Harold,» I may incur the suspicion of having intended some real personage : this I beg leave, once for all, to disclaim-Harold is the child of imagination, for the purpose I have stated. In some very trivial particulars, and those merely local, there might be grounds for such a notion ; but in the main points, I should hope, none whatever.
It is almost superfluous to mention that the appellation « Childe, » as « Childe Waters, » « Childe Childers, » etc. is used as more conso
nan't with the old structure of versification which I have adopted. The « Good Night, » in the beginning of the first canto, was suggested by « Lord Maxwell's Good Night, » in the Border Minstrelsy, edited by Mr. Scott.
With the different poems which have been published on Spanish subjects, there may be found some slight coincidence in the first part, which treats of the Peninsula, but it can only be casual; as, with the exception of a few concluding stanzas, the whole of this poem was written in the Levant.
The stanza of Spenser, according to one of our most successful poets, admits of every variety. Dr. Beattie makes the following observation : « Not long ago I began a poem in the style and stanza of Spenser, in which I propose to give full scope to my inclination, and be either droll or pathetic, descriptive or sentimental, tender or satirical, as the humour strikes me ; for, if I mistake not, the measure which I have adopted admits equally of all these kinds of composition (1). » — Strengthened in my opinion by such authority, and by the example of some in the highest order of Italian poets, I shall make no apology for attempts at similar variations in the following composition ; satisfied that, if they are unsuccessful, their failure must be in the execution, rather than in the design sanctioned by the practice of Ariosto, Thomson and Beattie. (1) Beattie's Letters.
Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Beholds the rainbow of her future years,
Young Peri of the West !_’tis well for me
· Happier, that while all younger hearts shall bleed,
Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
To those whose admiration shall succeed, But mixed with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours decreed.
Oh ! let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle's,
To one so young my strain I would commend,
Such is thy name with this my verse entwined ;
Such is the most my memory may desirc;
· CANTO I.
Oh, thou! in Hellas deemed of beav'nly birth, Muse! formed or fabled at the minstrels will ! Since shamed full oft by later lyres on earth, Mine dares not call thee from thy sacred hill : Yet there l’ye wandered by thy vaunted rill; Yes! sighed o’er Delphi's long - deserted shrine, Where, save that feeble fountain, all is still ;
Nor mote my shell awake the weary Nine To grace so plain a tale--this lowly lay of minc.
II. Whilome in Albion's isle there dwelt a youth, Who ne io virtue's ways did take delight; But spent bis days in riot most unconth, And vexed with mirth the drowsy eår of Night. Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight, Sore given to revel and ungodly glee; Few earthly things found favour in his sight Save concubines and carnal companie, And launting wassailers of bigh and low degree.