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In delivering the following Work to the Public, I beg to assure such a portion of it as may honour my pages with a perusal, that I do so with all the diffidence and humility natural to a young author on submitting his first exertions to such an enlightened and august tribunal; and I await its verdict with all that alarm and anxiety that must necessarily attend upon a person placing himself in so perilous a situation.
The many obstacles that an aspirant after fame, and a candidate for public favour in the character of a poet, has to encounter, are as difficult to overcome as the Hydra of Hercules. Having such men just preceding him as Byron, Scott,
Moore, with a host of other lesser, but scarcely inferior bards, who have "sounded all the depths and shoals" of Song, and wandered with uncurbed freedom through the widely extended gardens of Nature, culling at pleasure her choicest fruits and flowers-through whose minds every sentiment of taste, feeling, elegance and refinement, has already abundantly flowed, and, like gold which comes purer from its passage through the fire, rendered doubly beautiful and expressive from passing through the alembic of their brilliant imaginations, it is almost impossible now, in this our day, to make use of any figure, idea, or expression, without in some measure incurring the charge of plagiarism. Nor do I believe the most talented to be entirely free from the charge. Lord Byron himself says, in a note to Galt,* "As to originality, all pretensions are ludicrous; there is nothing new under the Sun." The Royal Preacher was of the same opinion, to whom we are indebted for the
Galt's Life of Byron, p. 180, chap. xxviii.
last clause of foregoing quotation.-(See 1st chap. of Ecclesiastes.)
I have, however, taken pains to avoid, as much as possible, borrowing from those who have gone before me, without giving them the only security my power for the loan-an inverted comma.
In the second Canto, Stanzas IX. X. and XI., where Macquillan is parting with his bride, there seems to be a similarity between his manner and that of Conrad's taking leave of Medora; but though that passage, and, indeed, the whole of the beautiful poem of the Corsair, must remain strongly impressed on the minds of all who read it, the appearance of copying here is merely accidental.
As many of my readers may have never seen the descriptions given by the different eminent men who have written on the Coast of the County of Antrim, I have selected such passages from their works, both to elucidate those parts of my poem to which they appear as notes, and to give in a little compass a just idea of the principal features of this wild and romantic country, which I hope will be found pleasing and instructive.
I have endeavoured, both in point of style, metre, tale, incident, &c., to steer out of the track of those who have gone before me over partly the same ground; and through the intricate windings of those scenes which I have attempted to describe, and which have been familiar to me by many years residence among them, I hope to gain a passage to public favour.
To our talented and kind-hearted countryman, Doctor M'Donnell, of Belfast, I beg leave to offer my sincere thanks, from whom I have received much valuable information, by which I have been enabled to compile the note on the origin of the Macdonalds. And I also feel pleasure in acknowledging the obligation I am under to my friend the Reverend Hugh Smith Cumming, to whose good taste and suggestions my poem is indebted for much improvement.
To those gentlemen who have honoured me with their patronage and support, I beg leave to return my most sincere thanks, and to apologize for the time that has elapsed since I first promised them my work; but when I engaged to have it
before the public on the first of January last, I did not contemplate how arduous the task was which I had undertaken, the difficulties I had to contend with, nor the time it would require to gain such information as my subject demanded, before I could bring my labours to a conclusion. I have now accomplished my task, and if the produce of my exertions shall have the good fortune to meet with the approbation of the public, I shall then, indeed, have arrived at the "consummation" so
devoutly to be wished" by every candidate for its favour.