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THE Title-page announces that this is only a portion of a poem; and the reader must be here apprised that it belongs to the second part of a long and laborious Work, which is to consist of three parts. The Author will candidly acknowledge that, if the first of these had been completed, and in such a manner as to satisfy his own mind, he should have preferred the natural order of publication, and have given that to the world first; but, as the second division of the Work was designed to refer more to passing events, and to an existing state of things, than the others were meant to do, more continuous exertion was naturally bestowed upon it, and greater progress made here than in the rest of the poem; and as this part does not depend upon the preceding, to a degree which will materially injure its own peculiar interest, the Author, complying with the earnest entreaties of some valued Friends, presents the following pages to the Public.
It may be proper to state whence the poem, of which the Excursion is a part, derives its Title of THE RECLUSE.-Several years ago, when the author retired to his native mountains, with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such employment. As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them. That Work, addressed to a dear Friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the Author's Intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it was a determination to compose a philosophical poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society ; and to be entitled the Recluse ; as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement. The preparatory poem is biographical, and conducts the history of the Author's mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labor which he had proposed to himself; and the two Works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the ante-chapel has to the body of a gothic church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor Pieces, which have been long before the Public, when they shall be properly arranged, will be found by the attentive Reader to have such connection with the main Work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.
The Author would not have deemed himself justified in saying, upon this occasion, so much of performances either unfinished, or unpublished, if he had not thought that the labor bestowed by him upon what he has heretofore and now laid before the Public, entitled him to candid attention for such a statement as he thinks necessary to throw light upon his endeavors to please, and, he would hope, to benefit his countrymen. Nothing further need be added, than that the first and third parts of The Recluse will consist chiefly of meditations in the Author's own person; and that in the intermediate part (The Excursion) the intervention of characters speaking is employed, and something of a dramatic form adopted.
It is not the Author's intention formally to announce a system: it was more animating to him to proceed in a different course; and if he shall succeed in conveying to the mind clear thoughts, lively images, and strong feelings, the Reader will have no difficulty in extracting the system for himself. And in the meantime the following passage, taken from the conclusion of the first book of The Recluse, may be acceptable as a kind of Prospectus of the design and scope of the whole Poem.
"On man, on Nature, and on Human Life,
And melancholy Fear subdued by Faith;
So prayed, more gaining than he asked, the Bard
pass them unalarmed. Not Chaos, not The darkest pit of lowest Erebus, Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out By help of dreams-can breed such fear and awe As fall upon us often when we look Into our Minds, into the Mind of ManMy haunt, and the main region of my rong. -Beauty-a living Presence of the earth, Surpassing the most fair ideal Forms Which craft of delicate Spirits hath compose From earth's materials—waits upon my steps; Pitches her tents before me as I move, An hourly neighbor. Paradise, and groves Elysian, Fortunate Fields—like those of old Sought in the Atlantic Main-why should they be A history only of departed thivgn,
Or a mere fiction of what never was For the discerning intellect of Man, When wedded to this goodly universe In love and holy passion, shall find these A simple produce of the common day. -1, long before the blissful hour arrives, Would chant, in lonely peace, the spousal verse Of this great consummation :and, by words Which speak of nothing more than what we are, Would I arouse the sensual from their sleep Of Death, and win the vacant and the vain To noble raptures; while my voice proclaims How exquisitely the individual Mind (And the progressive powers perhaps no less of the whole species) to the external World Is fitted :—and how exquisitely, too Theme this but little heard of among menThe external World is fitted to the Mind : And the creation (by no lower name Can it be called) which they with blended might Accomplish :this is our high argument. Such grateful haunts foregoing, if I oft Must turn elsewhere-to travel near the tribes And fellowships of men, and see ill sights Of madding passions mutually inflamed; Must hear Humanity in fields and groves Pipe solitary anguish; or must hang Brooding above the fierce confederate storm Of sorrow, barricadoed evermore Within the walls of cities-may these sounds Have their authentic comment; that even these Hearing, I be not downcast or forlorn Descend, prophetic Spirit! that inspirist The human soul of universal earth, 1
1 See Notes at end of the voluino.