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The task of writing a Preface is often experienced by an author to be the most arduous part of his labours, especially if his subject be handled in verse.
He has to descend from his intercourse with the creation of his own imagination, the spirits whom he has called from the vasty deep, and with whose immaterial shapes he may sport at liberty, and set himself down to commune in sober reality with readers of mortal and material mould.
In the present instance the Author will, with permission, curtail the ordinary civilities of thanking his readers for the honour they confer upon him, and proceed at once to offer a few remarks on his production.
The Victories of the Sutlej was originally written at much greater length, but the Author being subsequently informed that with those dimensions its chances were diminished of becoming a Prize Poem, as it now is, it was reduced to its present limits. This may serve to account for its being but a cursory glance at events so iron-tongued and spirit-stirring as the details of the Sikh War.
A few words will be necessary respecting the first Satire, on the Church.
The Author would observe with regard to the first class, whom he designates Puseyites, that he by no means uses this appellation in a personal sense, nor does he pretend to define its exact limitation. It has been applied, both as a term of approval and opprobrium, to various shades of creed, from the sincere, zealous, and noble Churchman, to the demi-semi-Romanist. The Author takes it in the sense commonly attaching to it, i. e. as that class who, overlooking the realities of the Christian faith, are disposed to place a greater degree of reliance on ceremonials than is their due. Not that ceremonials are to be undervalued, far from it. There is in the present day a rationalizing spirit of Christianity which would limit the Christian faith to the bounds of bare probability and materialism. This compromises the very soul of the Christian religion, and this scepticism is to be placed much lower down in the scale of Christian life and activity than the tendency to dogmatism of the early ages. These Rationalists and Materialists, whatever they may call themselves, are in reality followers of Aristotle and Locke, who receive nothing but what they can deduce from the single source of experience, and anything but true followers of the apostolically planted Church of Christ. Christianity demands implicit confidence, child-like trust, deep reverence, the sublimity of hope, and the essence of love. These qualities may be fostered, though not conferred, by the touching solemnities of a well-ordered ceremonial; and in this respect ceremonials are to be cherished as an effectual and properly available means. But make them, instead of the means and incentives, the channel and cause of salvation and beatification,—they are then decidedly to be censured, and deserve even a higher tone of rebuke than is laid upon them in this Satire.
The Author hopes that, touching the next class, the Evangelical party, he has made a sufficiently accurate distinction between the really sincere and the hypocritical professors, of whom so many are to be found, and whose conduct, both as regards themselves and the mischief they cause, cannot be too severely reprobated.
The two remaining classes speak for themselves.
In conclusion, the Author ventures to hope that his first-born offspring may be looked upon with an encouraging eye, and that its defects and imperfections may frequently have a veil cast over them by the kind indulgence of sympathizing readers.
H. F. B.
191, Great BRUNSWICK-STREET,