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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 1.djvu/16

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PREFACE TO THE POEMS.

of the text, or to interpret expressions and allusions which lapse of time may have rendered obscure.

Much of the knowledge requisite for this purpose is to be found in the articles of the Dictionary of National Biography, to which the fullest acknowledgments are due; and much has been arrived at after long research, involving a minute examination of the literature, the magazines, and often the newspapers of the period.

Inasmuch as the poems and plays have been before the public for more than three quarters of a century, it has not been thought necessary to burden the notes with the eulogies and apologies of the great poets and critics who were Byron's contemporaries, and regarded his writings, both for good and evil, for praise and blame, from a different standpoint from ours. Perhaps, even yet, the time has not come for a definite and positive appreciation of his genius. The tide of feeling and opinion must ebb and flow many times before his rank and station among the poets of all time will be finally adjudged. The splendour of his reputation, which dazzled his own countrymen, and, for the first time, attracted the attention of a contemporary European audience to an English writer, has faded, and belongs to history; but the poet's work remains, inviting a more intimate and a more extended scrutiny than it has hitherto received in this country. The reader who cares to make himself acquainted with the method of Byron's workmanship, to unravel his allusions, and to