Poetry of the Magyars/Preface

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Poetry of the Magyars by John Bowring
Preface

PREFACE.


I should think with less concern of the delay which has taken place since the announcement of this Volume, if I believed I had succeeded even to the extent of my own anticipations in producing a work of interest and value. Nothing can be more indulgent than the criticisms which, from time to time, have noticed the attempts I have made to bring the Poetry of other lands to the hearths and homes of England. I can truly say, had I myself been the critic they would have been judged with far greater severity. Another race of poets are now candidates in my hands for the good opinion of my countrymen; but on this occasion the claim to a candid, to a forbearing judgment, is stronger than I have ever before had to urge.

The Magyar language stands afar off and alone. The study of other tongues will be found of exceedingly little use towards its right understanding. It is moulded in a form essentially its own, and its construction and composition may be safely referred to an epoch when most of the living tongues of Europe either had no existence, or no influence on the Hungarian region.

Distance, too, has made the mission of books, and even the communication of ideas, tardy, uncertain, and expensive. Many valuable documents have been lost, or have lingered beyond the period when I could employ them usefully. One delay becomes the parent of many, and in the mean time the mind gets diverted, as mine has too frequently been, to other and more immediately attractive topics. My book goes forward, then,

"With all its imperfections on its head."

They would have been many more but for the watchful care of my friend Mayer, to whom I offer this public testimony of my thanks.

There are some, I know, who look upon the occupations of a Translator as ignoble and unworthy of literary ambition. I am well content to stand at respectful distance from those great intellects whose works are borne on the wings of an all-pervading fame to every country where the ear of civilization is listening. Yet I cannot believe that my humble labors are useless, nor have I ever wanted, and I hope I never shall want while health is vouchsafed to me, both encouragement and enthusiasm to pursue them. My mission, at all events, is one of benevolence. I have never left the ark of my country but with the wish to return to it, bearing fresh olive branches of peace and fresh garlands of poetry. I never yet visited the land where I found not much to love, to learn, to imitate, to honor. I never yet saw man utterly despoiled of his humanities. In Europe, at least, there are no moral nor intellectual wildernesses. Let others go forth with me to gather its fruits and flowers.

J. B.