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DUBLIN : J. B. GILPIN.
The following songs and poems were for the most part written in the year 1845, and in the early part of 1846—a time of social and political agitation. The Corn Laws were unrepealed; and the late lamented Sir Robert Peel had not announced the downfall of the old protective system, and the abolition of the tax upon bread. Many of them were intended to aid—as far as verses could aid the efforts of the zealous and able men who were endeavouring to create a public opinion in favour of untaxed food, and of free trade and free intercourse among the nations. They were written as plainly as possible, that they might appeal to the people in the people's language, and express the general sentiment of the toiling classes in phraseology broad, simple, and intelligible as the occasion. They were received with more favour than the author anticipated, and their success added strength to a longformed conviction, that politics—higher than parties, and based upon a sincere desire to promote the social and moral wellbeing of the great multitude of toiling and striving men — were as legitimately the business of the writer of verse as any other of the less exciting topics to which the critics of poetry have so long endeavoured to restrict it.
A few pieces appear in the present collection which were not included in the first edition ; upon the introduction of which a word of explanation may be necessary. Early in 1846, before the late King Louis Philippe had scandalized the world by his conduct with reference to the helpless and unhappy Queen of Spain, the author, believing him to be the patron of art, science, and literature, the friend of peace and of rational liberty, and a wise man schooled and made wiser by adversity, spoke of him in that sense in one of these pieces, entitled “England and France.” The publication of the odious details connected with what were called “the Spanish marriages” made him change his opinion, like many others ; and in October 1847—while Louis Philippe was still king, and apparently in the full blaze of splendour and success -he published in a new edition the verses entitled “Retractation and Repentance.” In the present edition he has appended a third poem, written and published on the arrival of the ex-king in England in March 1848, a fugitive from his country. Upon the maxim that we should not speak ill of the dead, these verses might have been omitted; but as the maxim, if adhered to by everybody, would render history useless, and public opinion powerless, they are here included with the rest, as the necessary completion of the subject.