A person or thing that precedes; a person, animal, or thing indicating the approach of something or someone, a harbinger.
In his very rejection of art Walt Whitman is an artist. He tried to produce a certain effect by certain means and he succeeded. . . . He stands apart, and the chief value of his work is in its prophecy, not in its performance. He has begun a prelude to larger themes. He is the herald to a new era. As a man he is the precursor of a fresh type. He is a factor in the heroic and spiritual evolution of the human being. If Poetry has passed him by, Philosophy will take note of him.
—Oscar Wilde Review of November Boughs by Walt Whitman Pall Mall Gazette, January 25, 1889