1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Batten Cristall

Ann Batten Cristall, Preface, in Cristall, Poems (1795) v-vii.



These light effusions of a youthful imagination, written at various times for the entertainment of my idle hours, I now present to such Readers whose minds are not too seriously engaged; and should they afford any degree of amusement, my most sanguine expectations will be answered. To attempt more in an age like this, enlightened by authors, whose lives have been devoted to the study of metaphysical and moral truth, would be presumptuous; and my experience does not justify such efforts. Most of my days have been passed in solitude, and the little knowledge I have acquired cannot boast of the authority of much experience; my opinions, therefore, would carry little weight; for though the dictates of Nature may be sometimes more just than conclusions drawn from a partial knowledge of the world, yet even our most settled convictions are never, perhaps, unbiassed by prejudice, or uninfluenced by affection.

From among my juvenile productions I have principally selected for this volume some poetical tales and unconnected sketches, which a love for the beauties of nature inspired. The versification is wild, and still incorrect, though I have taken much pains to reduce it to some degree of order; they were written without the knowledge of any rules; of which their irregularity is the natural consequence. The subjects, also, are not always such, as, on maturer reflection, I should have chosen, had they been originally intended for publication. The seeds scattered in my mind were casual; the productions spontaneous and involuntary. I can only say that what I have written is genuine, and that I am but little indebted either to ancient or modern poets. With the ancient poets, indeed, my acquaintance has been but small, and only obtained through the medium of translations. Whatever superiority those may enjoy who can boast an acquaintance with these great masters, and however ambitious they may be to copy those originals, yet I cannot help observing, that we have many instances of modern poets who have succeeded without treading too closely in their steps. Of this, the truly poetic energy of ROBERT BURNS, and the simple elegance of some of GEORGE DYER'S poems, afford remarkable instances; the latter, though a professed admirer of those writers, appears to have guarded against a servile imitation of them.

Those who have ever felt the warm influence of the Muse, must know that her inspirations are flattering and seductive; that she often raises the heart with vanity, and then overwhelms it with fears: such will readily believe, that with a fluctuating mind, and a trembling heart, I address the Public, without any pretence for being treated with particular indulgence. — A strong motive first influenced me to this attempt, before I had sufficiently considered its boldness; and having once adventured, I found it too late to recede.