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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 7.djvu/12

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PREFACE TO THE SEVENTH VOLUME.

to the pieties and proprieties of the Britannic Muse; that he had the courage of his opinions. Doubtless in a time of trouble he was welcomed as the champion of revolt, but deeper reasons must be sought for an almost exclusive preference for the works of one poet and a comparative indifference to the works of his rivals and contemporaries. He fulfilled another, perhaps a greater ideal. An Englishman turns to poetry for the expression in beautiful words of his happier and better feelings, and he is not contented unless poetry tends to make him happier or better—happier because better than he would be otherwise. His favourite poems are psalms, or at least metrical paraphrases, of life. Men of other nations are less concerned about their feelings and their souls. They regard the poet as the creator, the inventor, the maker par excellence, and he who can imagine or make the greatest eidolon is the greatest poet. Childe Harold and The Corsair, Mazeppa and Manfred, Cain and Sardanapalus were new creations, new types, forms more real than living man, which appealed to their artistic sense, and led their imaginations captive. "It is a mark," says Goethe (Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahreit, 1876, iii. 125), "of true poetry, that, as a secular gospel, it knows how to free us from the earthly burdens which press upon us, by inward serenity, by outward charm.... The most lively, as well as the gravest works have the same end—to moderate both pleasure and pain through a happy mental representation."