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To that First Cause, who made, who governs all,
PRE F A C E.
HE following poem was originally intended for the stage, and planned out, feveral years ago, into a regular tragedy. But the author found it neceffary to change his first design, and to give his work the formy it now appears in; for reasons with which it might be impertinent to trouble the public: though, to a man who thinks and feels in a certain manner, those reasons were invincibly strong.
As the scene of the piece is laid in the most remote and unfrequented of all the Hebrides, or western ifles that furround one part of Great-Britain; it may not be improper to inform the reader, that he will find a particular account of it, in a little treatise published near half a century ago, under the title of a Voyage to St. Kilda. The Author, who had himself been upon the spot, defcribes at length the fituation, extent, and produce of that folitary ifland; fketches out the natural history of the birds of season that tranfmigrate thither annually, and relates the fingular cuftoms that ftill prevailed among the inhabitants: a race of people then the most uncorrupted in their manners, and therefore the least unhappy in their lives, of any, perhaps, on the face of the whole earth. To whom might have been applied what an ancient hiftorian fays of certain barbarous nations, when he compares them with their more civilized neighbours: " plus valuit apud Hos ignorantia vitiorum, quam apud Græcos omnia "philofophorum præcepta."
They live together, as in the greatest fimplicity of heart, fo in the most inviolable harmony and union of fentiments. They have neither filver nor gold; but barter among themfelves for the few neceffaries they may reciprocally want. To ftrangers they are extremely hofpitable, and no less charitable to their own poor; for whofe relief each family in the island contributes its fhare monthly, and at every festival fends them befides a portion of mutton or beef. Both fexes have a genius to poetry; and compofe not only fongs, but pieces of a more elevated turn, in their own language, which is very emphatical. One of thofe iflanders, having been prevailed with to visit the greatest trading town in North-Britain, was infinitely astonished at the length of the voyage, and at the mighty kingdoms, for fuch he reckoned the larger ifles, by which they failed. He would not venture himself into the streets of that city without being led by the hand. At fight of the great church, he owned that it was indeed a lofty rock; but infifted that, in his native country of St. Kilda, there were others ftill higher. However the caverns formed in it, fø he named the pillars and arches on which it is raised, were hollowed, he said, more commodiously than any he had ever feen there. At the shake occafioned in the steeple, and the horrible din that founded in his ears upon tolling out the great bells, he appeared under the utmost confternation, believing the frame of nature was falling to pieces about him. He thought the perfons who wore masks, not diftinguifhing whether they were men or women, had