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E F A A CE.
THE following poem was originally intended for
the stage, and planned out, several years ago, into a regular tragedy. But the author found it necessary to change his first design, and to give his work the formy it now appears in ; for reafons with which it might be impertinent to trouble the public: though, to a man who thinks and feels in a certain manner, those seasons were invincibly strong.
As the scene of the piece is laid in the most remote and unfrequented of all the Hebrides, or western illes that surround 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, describes at length the situation, extent, and produce of that folitary island ; sketches out the natural history of the birds of season that transmigrate thither annually, and relates the singular customs that kill 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 historian says of certain barbarous nations, when he compares them with their more civilized neighbours : “ plus valuit apud Hos “ ignorantia vitiorum, quam apud Græcos omnia “ philosophorum præcepta." 04
They They live together, as in the greatest simplicity of heart, so in the moft inviolable harmony and union of sentiments. They have neither filver nor gold; but barter among themselves for the few necessaries they inay reciprocally want. To strangers they are extremely hofpitable, and no less charitable to their own poor ; for whose relief each family in the island contributes its share monthly, and at every festival sends them befides a portion of mutton or beef. Both sexes have a genius to poetry; and compose not only fongs, but pieces of a inore elevated turn, in their own language, which is very emphatical. One of those 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 kingdomsy for such he reckoned the larger isles, by which they failed. He would not venture himself into the streets of that city without being led by the hand. At sight of the great church, he owned that it was indeed a lofty rock; but insisted that, in his native country
of St. Kilda, there were others still higher. However the caverns formed in it, so he named the pillars and arches on which it is raised, were hollowed, he said, more commodiously than any he had ever seen there. At the thake occafioned in the steeple, and the horrible din that founded in his cars upon tolling out the great bells, he appeared under the utmost consternation, believing the frame of nature was falling-to pieces about him. He thought the persons who wore masks, not distinguishing whether they were men or women, had
been guilty of some ill thing, for which they did not dare to shew their faces. The beauty and stateliness of the trees which he saw then for the first time, as in: his own island there grows not a shrub, equally furprized and delighted him : but bre observed, with a kind of terror, that as he passed among their branches, they pulled him back again. He had been persuaded to drink a pretty large dose of strong waters; and upon finding himfelf drowsy after it, and ready to fall into a slumber, which he fancied was to be his last, he expressed to his companions the great fatisfaction he felt in so easy a paflage out of this world : for, said he, it is attended with no kind of pain.
Among such sort of men it was that Aurelius sought refuge from the violence and cruelty of his enemies.
The time appears to have been towards the latter part of the reign of King Charles the second: when those who governed Scotland under him, with no less cruelty than impolicy, made the people of that country desperate; and then plundered, imprisoned, or butchered them, for the natural effects of fuch despair. The best and worthiest men were oft the objects of their moft unrelenting fury. Under tħe title of fanatics, or feditious, they affected to herd, and of course persecuted, whoever wished well to his country, or ventured to stand
in defence of the laws and a legal government. I have now in my hands the copy of a warrant, signed by King Charles himself, for military execution upon them without process or conviction : and I know that the ori. ginal is still kept in the secretary's office for that part of the united kingdom. Thos much I thought it necefiary
to say, that the reader may not be misled to look upon the relation given by Aurelius in the second canto, as drawn from the wantonness of. imagination, when it hardly arises to strict historical truth.
What reception this poem may meet with, the author cannot foresce : and, in his humble, but happy retirement, he needs not be over-anxious to know. He has endeavoured to make it one regular and consistent whole; to be true to nature in his thoughts, and to the genius of the language in his manner of expressing them. If he has succeeded in these points, but above all in effectually touching the passions, which, as it is the genuine province, so is it the great triumph, of poetry ; the candor of his more discerning readers will readily overlook mistakes or failures in things of less importance.
TO MRS. MALLE T.
A M YN
AR in the watery waste, where his broad wave
From world to world the vast Atlantic rolls,
15 To thousand nations deals her nectar'd cup Of pleasing bane, that soothes at once and kills, Is yet a name unknown. But calm content