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of variety in the characters of men; or, to use his own words, to the fact, that the greater part of mankind have no character at all.' Such language may be holden without blame among the generalities of common conversation; but does not become a critic and a moralist speaking seriously upon a serious subject. The objects of admiration in human-nature are not scanty, but abundant and every man has a character of his own, to the eye that has skill to perceive it. The real cause of the acknowledged want of discrimination in sepulchral memorials is this: That to analyse the characters of others, especially of those whom we love, is not a common or natural employment of men at any time. We are not anxious unerringly to understand the constitution of the minds of those who have soothed, who have cheered, who have supported us: with whom we have been long and daily pleased or delighted. The affections are their own justification. The light of love in our hearts is a satisfactory evidence that there is a body of worth in the minds of our friends or kindred, whence that light has proceeded. We shrink from the thought of placing their merits and defects to be weighed against each other in the nice balance of pure intellect; nor do we find much temptation to detect the shades by which a good quality or virtue is discriminated in them from an excellence known by the same general name as it exists in the mind of another; and, least of all, do we incline to these refinements when under the pressure of sorrow, admiration, or regret, or when actuated by any of those feelings which incite men to prolong the memory of their friends and kindred, by records placed in the bosom of the alluniting and equalising receptacle of the dead.
The first requisite, then, in an Epitaph is, that it should speak, in a tone which shall sink into the heart, the general language of humanity as connected with the subject of death-the source from which an epitaph proceeds-of death, and of life. To be born and to die are the two points in which all men feel themselves to be in absolute coincidence. This general language may be uttered so strikingly as to entitle an epitaph to high praise; yet it cannot lay claim to the highest unless other excellencies be superadded. Passing through all intermediate steps, we will attempt to determine at once what these excellencies are, and wherein consists the perfection of this species of composition.-It will be found to lie in a due proportion of the common or universal feeling of humanity to sensations excited by a distinct and clear conception, conveyed to the reader's mind, of the individual, whose death is deplored and whose memory is to be preserved; at least of his character as, after death, it appeared to those who loved him and lament his loss. The general sympathy ought to be quickened, provoked, and diversified, by particular thoughts, actions, images,-circumstances of age, occupation, manner of life, prosperity which the deceased had known, or adversity to which he had been subject; and these ought to be bound together and solemnised into one harmony by the general sympathy. The two powers should temper, restrain, and exalt each other. The reader ought to know who and what the man was whom he is called upon to think of with interest. A distinct conception should be given (implicitly where it can, rather than explicitly) of the individual lamented.But the writer of an epitaph is not an anatomist, who dissects the internal frame of the mind; he is not even a painter, who executes a portrait at leisure and in entire tranquillity: his delineation, we must remember, is performed by the side of the grave; and, what is more, the grave of one whom he loves and admires. What purity and brightness is that virtue clothed in, the image of which must no longer bless our living eyes! The character of a deceased friend or beloved kinsman is not seen, no-nor ought to be seen, otherwise than as a tree through a tender haze or a luminous mist, that spiritualises and beautifies it; that takes away, indeed, but
only to the end that the parts which are not abstracts! may appear more dignified and lovely; may impress and affect the more. Shall we say, then, that this is not truth, not a faithful image; and that, accordingly, the purje ses of commemoration cannot be answered ?-It is truth, and of the highest order; for, though doubtless things are not apparent which did exist; yet, the object ber; looked at through this medium, parts and proporti are brought into distinct view which before had been only imperfectly or unconsciously seen: it is trota hallowed by love-the joint offspring of the worth of fat dead and the affections of the living! This may easily be brought to the test. Let one, whose eyes have wa sharpened by personal hostility to discover what was amiss in the character of a good man, hear the tap of his death, and what a change is wrought in a => ment! Enmity melts away; and, as it disappears, unsightliness, disproportion, and deformity, vanish ; 194 through the influence of commiseration, a harmony f love and beauty succeeds. Bring such a man ta t tombstone on which shall be inscribed an epitaph en tia adversary, composed in the spirit which we have recom mended. Would he turn from it as from an idle tale No; the thoughtful look, the sigh, and perhaps the involuntary tear, would testify that it had a sara a generous, and good meaning; and that on the mark mind had remained an impression which was a tra abstract of the character of the deceased; that his gua and graces were remembered in the simplicity in wh they ought to be remembered. The compositiva rei quality of the mind of a virtuous man, conteroplated by the side of the grave where his body is moaklerine ought to appear, and be felt as something mily between what he was on earth walking about win ti living frailties, and what he may be presumed to be as a Spirit in heaven.
It suffices, therefore, that the trunk and De min branches of the worth of the deceased be boldly and t affectedly represented. Any further detail, minataigy szé scrupulously pursued, especially if this be Gua? =th laborious and antithetic discriminations, most inerrably frustrate its own purpose; forcing the passing Spectar to this conclusion,-either that the dead did not pessoa the merits ascribed to him, or that they who have raised a monument to his memory, and must therefore be 120posed to have been closely connected with him, we? scapable of perceiving those merits; or at least dring the act of composition had lost sight of them; for, tæt understanding having been so busy in its petty tion, how could the heart of the mourner be cha cold and in either of these cases, whether the fact be on the part of the buried person or the survivors, the memorial is unaffecting and profitless.
Much better is it to fall short in discrimination than to pursue it too far, or to labour it unfeelinzly. For m no place are we so much disposed to dwell upon thos points, of nature and condition, wherein all men semble each other, as in the temple where the universal Father is worshipped, or by the side of the grave which gathers all human Beings to itself, and equalizes tox lofty and the low.' We suffer and we weep with zim same heart; we love and are anxious for one another in one spirit; our hopes look to the same quarter, and the virtues by which we are all to be furthered and sp ported, as patience, meekness, good-will, justice, toperance, and temperate desires, are in an equal deg the concern of us all. Let an Epitaph, then, contain at least these acknowledgments to our common na nor let the sense of their importance be sacrificed 10 à balance of opposite qualities or minute distinctives iz individual character; which if they do uc (as will fr the most part be the case,) when examined resolve them selves into a trick of words, will, even when they are true and just, for the most part be grimusly out place; for, as it is probable that few only have explormi
these intricacies of human nature, so can the tracing of them be interesting only to a few. But an epitaph is not a proud writing shut up for the studious: it is exposed to all-to the wise and the most ignorant; it is condescending, perspicuous, and lovingly solicits regard; its story and admonitions are brief, that the thoughtless, the busy, and indolent, may not be deterred, nor the Impatient tired: the stooping old man cons the engraven record like a second horn-book ;-the child is proud that he can read it;-and the stranger is introduced through its mediation to the company of a friend: it is concerning all, and for all:-in the church-yard it is open to the day; the sun looks down upon the stone, and the rains of heaven beat against it.
Yet, though the writer who would excite sympathy is bound in this case, more than in any other, to give proot that he himself has been moved, it is to be remembered, that to raise a monument is a sober and a reflective act; that the inscription which it bears is intended to be permanent, and for universal perusal; and that, for this resson, the thoughts and feelings expressed should be permanent also-liberated from that weakness and ar guish of sorrow which is in nature transitory, and which with instinctive decency retires from notice. The Passions should be subdued, the emotions controlled; strong, indeed, but nothing ungovernable or wholly involuntary. Seemliness requires this, and truth requires it also: for how can the narrator otherwise be trusted? Moreover, a grave is a tranquillizing object: resignation in course of time springs up from it as naturally as the wild flowers, besprinkling the turf with which it may be covered, or gathering round the monument by which it is defended. The very form and substance of the monument which has received the inscription, and the appearance of the letters, testifying with what a slow and laborious hand they must have been engraven, might seera to reproach the author who had given way upon this occasion to transports of mind, or to quick turns of conflicting passion; though the same might constitute the life and beauty of a funeral oration or elegiac poem. These sensations and judgments, acted upon perhaps unconsciously, have been one of the main causes why itaphs so often personate the deceased, and represent him as speaking from his own tomb-stone. parted Mortal is introduced telling you himself that his pains are gone; that a state of rest is come; and he conjures you to weep for him no longer. He admonishes with the voice of one experienced in the vanity of those affections which are confined to earthly objects, and I gives a verdict like a superior Being, performing the othce of a judge, who has no temptations to mislead him, and whose decision cannot but be dispassionate. Thus is death disarmed of its sting, and affliction unsubstantilised. By this tender fiction, the survivors bind themselves to a sedater sorrow, and employ the intervention of the imagination in order that the reason may speak her own language earlier than she would otherwise have been enabled to do. This shadowy interposition also harmoniously unites the two worlds of the living and the dead by their appropriate affections. And it may be observed, that here we have an additional proof of the propriety with which sepulchral inscriptions were referred to the consciousness of immortality as their primal
I do not speak with a wish to recommend that an epitaph should be cast in this mould preferably to the still more common one, in which what is said comes from the survivors directly; but rather to point out how natural those feelings are which have induced men, in all states and ranks of society, so frequently to adopt this mode. And this I have done chiefly in order that the laws, which ought to govern the composition of the other, may be better understood. This latter mode, namely, that in which the survivors speak in their own persons, seems to me upon the whole greatly preferable: as it
admits a wider range of notices; and, above all, because, excluding the fiction which is the groundwork of the other, it rests upon a more solid basis.
Enough has been said to convey our notion of a perfect epitaph; but it must be borne in mind that one is meant which will best answer the general ends of that species of composition. According to the course pointed out, the worth of private life, through all varieties of situation and character, will be most honourably and profitably preserved in memory. Nor would the model recommended less suit public men, in all instances save of those persons who by the greatness of their services in the employments of peace or war, or by the surpassing excellence of their works in art, literature, or science, have made themselves not only universally known, but have filled the heart of their country with everlasting gratitude. Yet I must here pause to correct myself. In describing the general tenour of thought which epitaphs ought to hold, I have omitted to say, that if it be the actions of a man, or even some one conspicuous or beneficial act of local or general utility, which have distinguished him, and excited a desire that he should be remembered, then, of course, ought the attention to be directed chiefly to those actions or that act: and such sentiments dwelt upon as naturally arise out of them or it. Having made this necessary distinction, I proceed.-The mighty benefactors of mankind, as they are not only known by the immediate survivors, but will continue to be known familiarly to latest posterity, do not stand in need of biographic sketches, in such a place; nor of delineations of character to individualise them. This is already done by their Works, in the memories of men. Their naked names, and a grand comprehensive sentiment of civio gratitude, patriotic love, or human admiration--or the utterance of some elementary principle most essential in the constitution of true virtue;-or a declaration touching that pious humility and self-abasement, which are ever most profound as minds are most susceptible of genuine exaltation-or an intuition, communicated in adequate words, of the sublimity of intellectual power; -these are the only tribute which can here be paid-the only offering that upon such an altar would not be unworthy.
'Perish the roses and the flowers of Kings.'
The Transit gloria mundi' is finely expressed in the Introduction to the Foundation-charters of some of the ancient Abbeys. Some expressions here used are taken from that of the Abbey of St. Mary's, Furness, the translation of which is as follows :—
'Considering every day the uncertainty of life, that the roses and flowers of Kings, Emperors, and Dukes, and the crowns and palms of all the great, wither and decay; and that all things, with an uninterrupted course, tend to dissolution and death: I therefore,' &c.
'Earth has lent
Her waters, Air her breezes.'
In treating this subject, it was impossible not to recollect, with gratitude, the pleasing picture, which, in his
MUCH the greatest part of the foregoing Poems has been so long before the Public that no prefatory matter, explanatory of any portion of them, or of the arrangement which has been adopted, appears to be required; and had it not been for the observations contained in those Prefaces upon the principles of Poetry in general they would not have been reprinted even as an Appendix in this Edition.
TO THE SECOND EDITION OF SEVERAL OF THE FOREGOING POEMS, PUBLISHED, WITH AN ADDITIONAL VOLUME, UNDER THE TITLE OF LYRICAL BALLADS."
[Note.-In succeeding Editions, when the Collection was much enlarged and diversified, this Preface was transferred to the end of the Volumes as having little of a special application to their contents.]
THE first Volume of these Poems has already been submitted to general perusal. It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart.
I had formed no very inaccurate estimate of the probable effect of those Poems: I flattered myself that they who should be pleased with them would read them with more than common pleasure: and, on the other hand, I was well aware, that by those who should dislike them, they would be read with more than common dislike. The result has differed from my expectation in this only, that a greater number have been pleased than I ventured to hope I should please.
Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems, from a belief, that, if the views with which they were composed were indeed realised, a class of Poetry would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and not unimportant in the quality, and in the multiplicity
of its moral relations: and on this account they have advised me to prefix a systematic defence of the theory upon which the Poems were written. But I was unwilling to undertake the task, knowing that on this occasion the Reader would look coldly upon my arguments, since I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him into an approbation of these particular Poems: and I was still more unwilling to undertake the task, because, adequately to display the opinions, and fully to enforce the arguments, would require a space wholly disproportionate to a preface. For, to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence of which it is susceptible, it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public | taste in this country, and to determine how far this taste is healthy or depraved; which, again, could not be determined, without pointing out in what manner language and the human mind act and re-act on each other, and without retracing the revolutions, not of literature alone, but likewise of society itself. I have therefore altogether declined to enter regularly upon this defence; yet I am sensible, that there would be something like impro
priety in abruptly obtruding upon the Public, without a few words of introduction, Poems so materially different from those upon which general approbation is at present bestowed.
It is supposed, that by the act of writing in verse an Author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association; that he not only thus apprises the Reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book, but that others will be carefully excluded. This exponent or symbol held forth by metrical language must in different eras of literature have excited very different expectations: for example, in the age of Catullus, Terence, and Lucretius, and that of Statius or Claudian; and in our own country, in the age of Shakspeare and Beaumont and Fletcher, and that of Donne and Cowley, or Dryden, or Pope. I will not take upon me to determine the exact import of the promise which, by the act of writing in verse, an Author, in the present day makes to his reader: but it will undoubtedly appear to many persons that I have not fulfilled the terms of an engagement thus voluntarily contracted. They who have been accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will, no doubt, frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. I hope therefore the reader will not censure me for attempting to state what I have proposed to myself to perform; and also (as far as the limits of a preface will permit) to explain some of the chief reasons which have determined me in the choice of my purpose: that at least he may be spared any unpleasant feeling of disappointment, and that I myself may be protected from one of the most dishonourable accusations which can be brought against an Author; namely, that of an indolence which prevents him from endeavouring to ascertain what is his duty, or, when his duty is ascertained, prevents him from performing it.
The principal object, then, proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not
ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity, and, eonsequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and, from the necessary characer of rural occupations, are more easily comprehendol, and are more durable; and, lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. The language, too, of these men has been adopted (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly eur municate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and berages, from their rank in society and the sameness ai narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the influence of social vanity, they convey thư feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. Accordingly, such a language, arizing out of repeated experience and regular fooling, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are ontfang honour upon themselves and their art, in propostin as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capria habits of expression, in order to furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation.
I cannot, however, be insensible to the present outcry against the triviality and meanness, both of thought and language, which some of my ex temporaries have occasionally introduced into the metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect, where it exists, is more dish-toural y to the Writer's own character than false refie ment or arbitrary innovation, though I shu contend at the same time, that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. Fro such verses the Poems in these volumes will le
*It is worth while here to observe, that the affecting
parts of Chaucer are almost always expressed in language pure and universally intelligible even to this day.