« PreviousContinue »
The poems arranged, in this volume, under the title of Youth, OR SCENES FROM THE Past, are so far connected with each other, that they all relate, more or less directly, to thoughts, feelings, or events, personal to the author. His aim has been to make each sonnet, or short poem, complete in itself; yet so to construct the whole that, when combined, they should fall naturally into one connected series. This series, if finished according to the original design, would form three separate Parts ; corresponding to the natu ral division of human life into Youth, Manhood, and Age. The first Part only, - which traces the developement of the mental and bodily powers, in the studies and amusements of Youth, - is here presented to
the reader. It is complete in itself, and has no necessary connexion with the two remaining Parts.
In giving this attempt to delineate life and character so much of a personal application, the author has been influenced, in part, at least, by a distrust of his ability to treat the subject in a more comprehensive
It seemed to him that he could best describe what he most deeply felt. His subject being Life, – the life of man, - he has endeavoured, instead of treating it in the abstract, to exhibit what appeared to him most likely to interest the general reader, in a single life; and that life, the one with which he was himself best acquainted. This explanation will, it is hoped, free him from the charge of egotism, to which he might otherwise be exposed, by showing that the work took the form of personal narrative, so far as that form is adopted, under the influence of feelings the reverse of vanity or presumption. If it abounds in individual traits and local allusions, it is because the author felt himself most at ease in his native haunts, and among the friends and companions of his early years. If he failed to make these interesting, he could hardly hope for more success in a wider field.
In poems, intended to represent the changing hues of sentiment and opinion, in the successive stages of life, the reader will not be surprised to find some real, and many apparent discrepancies of thought and feel
ing. The author's general views and sentiments will hardly be mistaken; and the varying aspects of truth, or, what, at times, may appear as such, - could not be reproduced by him, with the requisite force and liveliness, without assuming (for the occasion) as just and real, the feeling or the opinion, which it was intended to represent or express.
Some of these opposite presentations are not so much contradictions of opinion, as antagnoist modes of thought and action ;each true, within certain limits, and neither complete, without its accompanying counterpart. It will readily be believed that, in these delineations, the author has not felt himself bound, in all cases, like a witness on the stand, to the literal truth of facts; but that, while aiming always at the truth of nature, he has not scrupled, - veris miscens falsa, — to supply, occasionally, such poetical embellishments as his subject seemed to invite or require. Under this saving clause of fiction, the reader is at liberty to arrange whatever he finds improbable in these sketches, or offensive to his better judgment.
The mottoes are intended, some of them, to express thoughts or sentiments, which the author could not so well convey in his own language, and others to exhibit, under a different form, or with additional
circumstances, the leading idea of the poem to which they are prefixed. In either case, if the reader finds his imagination excited, or his reflections deepened, by the truth, or the fancy of the motto, he will, perhaps, be the more inclined to look with kindness, on the stranger who comes introduced to him, by an old friend, in this new connexion. The labour of selecting these mottoes has tempted the author, in some cases, to write what he could not so readily find; and this, as the easier task, would have been oftener done, if he had not aimed, in this part of his work, at greater variety, as well as excellence, than his own verses were likely to supply.
Epping, N. H. NOVEMBER 2, 1841.