The Missionary. Preface To The Second Edition.

A poem by William Lisle Bowles

The Missionary.

Amor patriæ ratione potentior omni.




It is not necessary to relate the causes which induced me to publish this poem without a name.

The favour with which it has been received may make me less diffident in avowing it; and, as a second edition has been generally called for, I have endeavoured to make it, in every respect, less unworthy of the public eye.

I have availed myself of every sensible objection, the most material of which was the circumstance, that the Indian maid, described in the first book, had not a part assigned to her of sufficient interest in the subsequent events of the poem, and that the character of the Missionary was not sufficiently professional.

The single circumstance that a Spanish commander, with his army in South America, was destroyed by the Indians, in consequence of the treachery of his page, who was a native, and that only a priest was saved, is all that has been taken from history. The rest of this poem, the personages, father, daughter, wife, et cet. (with the exception of the names of Indian warriors) is imaginary. The time is two months. The first four books include as many days and nights. The rest of the time is occupied by the Spaniards' march, the assembly of warriors, et cet.

The place in which the scene is laid, was selected because South America has of late years received additional interest, and because the ground was at once new, poetical, and picturesque.

From old-fashioned feelings, perhaps, I have admitted some aërial agents, or what is called machinery. It is true that the spirits cannot be said to accelerate or retard the events; but surely they may be allowed to show a sympathy with the fate of those, among whom poetical fancy has given them a prescriptive ideal existence. They may be further excused, as relieving the narrative, and adding to the imagery.

The causes which induced me to publish this poem without a name, induced me also to attempt it in a versification to which I have been least accustomed, which, to my ear, is most uncongenial, and which is, in itself, most difficult. I mention this, in order that, if some passages should be found less harmonious than they might have been, the candour of the reader may pardon them.



Scene - South America.

Characters., Valdivia, commander of the Spanish armies, Lautaro, his page, a native of Chili, Anselmo, the missionary, Indiana, his adopted daughter, wife of Lautaro, Zarinel, the wandering minstrel.

Indians., Attacapac, father of Lautaro, Olola, his daughter, sister of Lautaro, Caupolican, chief of the Indians, Indian warriors.

The chief event of the poem turns upon the conduct of Lautaro; but as the Missionary acts so distinguished a part, and as the whole of the moral depends upon him, it was thought better to retain the title which was originally given to the poem.

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