Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/15

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vii
PREFACE TO THE THIRD VOLUME.

Pirates," who once held the field, and now seem to have gone under in the struggle for poetical existence!

To what, then, may we attribute the passing away of interest and enthusiasm? To the caprice of fashion, to an insistence on a more faultless technique, to a nicer taste in ethical sentiment, to a preference for a subtler treatment of loftier themes? More certainly, and more particularly, I think, to the blurring of outline and the blotting out of detail due to lapse of time and the shifting of the intellectual standpoint.

However much the charm of novelty and the contagion of enthusiasm may have contributed to the success of the Turkish and other Tales, it is in the last degree improbable that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were enamoured, not of a reality, but of an illusion born of ignorance or of vulgar bewilderment. They were carried away because they breathed the same atmosphere as the singer; and being undistracted by ethical, or grammatical, or metrical offences, they not only read these poems with avidity, but understood enough of what they read to be touched by their vitality, to realize their verisimilitude.

Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner. Nay, more, the knowledge, the comprehension of essential greatness in art, in nature, or in man is not to know that there is aught to forgive. But that sufficing knowledge which the reader of average intelligence brings with him for the comprehension and appreciation of contemporary