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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/16

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PREFACE TO THE FOURTH VOLUME.

himself to one branch or species of poetry. He tracked the footsteps now of this master poet, now of another, far outstripping some of his models; soon spent in the pursuit of others. Even in his own lifetime, and in the heyday of his fame, his friendliest critics, who applauded him to the echo, perceived that the "manifold motions" of his versatile and unsleeping talent were not always sanctioned or blessed by his genius. Hence the unevenness of his work, the different values of this or that poem. But, even so, in width of compass, in variety of style, and in measure of success, his achievement was unparalleled. Take such poems as Manfred or Mazeppa, which have left their mark on the literature of Europe; as Beppo, the avant courrier of Don Juan, or the "inimitable" Vision of Judgment, which the "hungry generations" have not trodden down or despoiled of its freshness. Not one of these poems suggests or resembles the other, but each has its crowd of associations, a history and almost a literature of its own.

The whole of this volume was written on foreign soil, in Switzerland or Italy, and, putting aside The Dream, The Monody on the Death of Sheridan, The Irish Avatar, and The Blues, the places, the persons and events, the matériel of the volume as a whole, to say nothing of the style and metre of the poems, are derived from the history and the literature of Switzerland and Southern Europe. An unwilling, at times a vindictive exile, he did more than any other poet or writer of his age to