Page images

subject myself to the principles of the art of painting. I have not confined myself to the objects of sight, nor adhered to one point of time. I have often represented a series of incidents; and, in pourtraying characters, I have made them speak as well as act.

Some of the Months in The Rural. Calendar, appeared in a newspaper (the Kelso Mail) about nine or ten years ago. I have since made several additions and corrections; but I lay the Poem before the Public, rather as a faithful sketch, than as a full or finished delineation of the progress of the year.

I have endeavoured to describe the manners and characters of several species of The Birds of Scotland, in the poem to which I have given that title. Their external appearances I have not attempted to delineate, unless. sometimes by very slight and hasty touches. What I have written is the result

of my own observation. When I consulted books, my object was not information so much as correction; but as I have not often travelled beyond the limits of my own knowledge, and as my attention, from my early years, has been insensibly directed to the subject, I may, without arrogance, assert, that when I did consult books, I very seldom found myself either corrected or informed.

With the descriptions of Birds, I have interspersed delineations of the scenes which they frequent; and, under that head, I have hazarded some observations on the present mode of laying out grounds. Some opinions which I have shortly, and perhaps crudely, advanced, are copiously and feelingly discussed in a book, which every landholder ought to peruse, I mean, Price's “ Essay on the Picturesque.”

I have offered The Birds of Scotland to the Public, not as, by any means, a complete work; not as a treatise, but an essay. It is defective, I am aware, in the general plan, as well as in the different parts. Neither do I give it as a scientific performance: I have studied not so much to convey knowledge, as to please the imagination, and warm the heart.

In the Dramatic Poem, which concludes these volumes, I have not paid a scrupulous regard to facts or dates : I have introduced several fictitious characters, added many incidents, and misplaced many; but to none of the characters have I ascribed any action or any sentiment that can be deemed incongruous with the general tenor of their conduct, as represented in the histories of the times. Perhaps, however, I may be censured as having at least exaggerated the virtues of the one party, and the enormities of the other. In refutation of this charge, I have, in the Notes, made some extracts from historical works, which will not be suspected of partiality to that side of the question, to which, I confess, the bias of my mind is inclined. From some of those extracts, the reader will be satisfied, that Elizabeth (in reference to whom, chiefly, the charge of injustice is expected) is a portrait faithfully copied from an original painting.

In the former edition, which I published about six years ago, there were many passages which I have seen good reason to omit in this ; but I have, however, added more than I have omitted ; and, I trust, that where I have altered, I have improved.

« PreviousContinue »