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JANUARY, 1777 HAVING lately seen in print some poems ascribed to me, which I never wrote, and some of my own in. accurately copied, I thought it would not be improper to publish, in this little volume, all the verses of which I am willing to be considered as the author. Many others I did indeed write in the early part of
life; but they were in general so incorrect, that I would not rescue them from oblivion, even if a wish could do it.
Some of the few now offered to the Publick would perhaps have been suppressed, if in making this collection I had implicitly followed my own judgment. But in so small a matter who would refuse to submit his opinion to that of a friend?
It is of no consequence to the reader to know the date of any of these little poems. But some private reasons determine the author to add, that most of them were written many years ago, and that the greater part of the Minstrel, which is his latest attempt in this way, was composed in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight.
THE design was, to trace the progress
of a Poetical Genius, born in a rude age, from the first dawning of fancy and reason, till that period at which he may be supposed capable of appearing in the world as A MINSTREL, that is, as an itinerant Poet and Musician;a character which, according to the notions of our forefathers, was not only respectable, but sacred.
I have endeavoured to imitate SPENSER in the measure of his verse, and in the harmony, simplicity, and variety, of his composition. Antique expressions I have avoided; admitting, however, some old words, where they seemed to suit the subject: but I hope none will be found that are now obsolete, or in any degree not intelligible to a reader of English poetry.
To those, who may be disposed to ask, what could induce me to write in so difficult a measure, I can
only answer, that it pleases my ear, and seems, from its Gothick structure and original, to bear some relation to the subject and spirit of the Poem. It admits both simplicity and magnificence of sound and of language, beyond any other stanza that I am acquainted with. It allows the sententiousness of the couplet, as well as the more complex modulation of blank verse. What some criticks have remarked, of its uniformity growing at last tiresome to the ear, will be found to hold true, only when the poetry is faulty in other respects.