صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

thors of Queen Anne's reign, produced in the public fuch a delicacy and even fastidiousness of taste, as could not be gratified by the irregular compofitions of our early poets, who therefore foon fell into difrepute, and were in a little time configned to oblivion. The difufe of the black letter contributed, perhaps, to this revolution in tafte. Of thofe works which had been printed in that antiquated character, a very few copies, becoming valuable from their fcarcity, escaped into the cabinets of literary collectors, where they are fecure indeed against farther infult, but are at the fame time inacceffible to the curiosity of the public.

IT has been lamented by many lovers of poetry, that, when a general and uniform edition of our poets was published under the aufpices of Dr. Johnson, no effort was made in favour of these antiquated writers. It fhould feem, that the director of that literary apotheofis might have recommended to public notice the works of Surrey, Wyat,

Sidney, Raleigh, and the several contributors to our earlier miscellanies, as justly and as fuccessfully as thofe of Blackmore, Sprat, and Yalden. The opportunity, however, is now loft, and is not likely to be soon recovered.

To those who poffefs a complete poetical library, the following collection will, of course, be useless: it is a mere commonplace book, and very imperfect; but, it is hoped, far less so than any other of the same fize. It is confined to fmall poems only; because it was apprehended that these would be more pleafing than extracts and fragments, and would tend equally to characterize the manner of the feveral authors. The task of felection too was much easier; for any man can appreciate the merit of natural thoughts conveyed in natural language, whereas inspiration is a supernatural agent, and what in one age paffes for sublime, may in ano ther be only confidered as abfurd,

POEMS of the ballad kind have been omitted, because they seem less connected with the history of our poetry, than with that of our ancient manners and customs. For this reason too, the longeft are scarcely fufceptible of abridgment, and their number is not fo confiderable as to require felection. It is to be wished that more of them may be discovered, particularly in the class of metrical romances, as even the oldest of those in profe are claimed as the property of other nations.

As many of the names which occur in this volume will probably not be familiar to the general class of readers, it might be expected that the specimens of each author should be preceded by fome account of his life and writings: but it was thought unnecessary to attempt what has been already executed in the best and most popular of our modern mifcellanies. A fufficient account of all the British poets may be found either in Percy's Collection; or in Headley's Select Beauties of

ancient English Poetry; or in Pinkerton's Scottish Ballads and Poems.

It is neceffary to mention, that the compiler has taken the liberty of adopting throughout the orthography of the present time. He conceives, that, although some of the variations which have taken place in our mode of spelling may have been dictated by caprice, the greater number were adopted with a view to prevent ambiguity, and that it is no injury to his authors to render them more intelligible.

THE freedom which has been taken in fuppreffing not only feveral lines, but occasionally very long passages in a poem, is certainly inexcufable, if it shall be found to have been injudiciously exercised: but, on this point, the reader's opinion will probably be decided rather by the merit of what is preserved, than by any apology that could be offered in a preface.

« السابقةمتابعة »