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THE BRITISH POETS,
FKOM CHAUCEE TO THE PBESENTTIME,
UNDER SEPARATE DIVISIONS,
WITH INTRODUCTIONS EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENT SPECIES
Who ia it that ever was a scholar that doth not carry away some verses
VOLUME I. ...-
PDBLISHED BY DIRECTION OF THE
COMMISSIONERS OF NATIONAL EDUCATION IN IRELAND.
W. CCRRT, JUN., AND CO., DURLIN; R. OROOHERIDOE AWD SONS, LONDON;
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THETTW YORK |PUBLIC LIBRARY PEEFACE.
56.1 2 37
For H. M. STATIONERY OFFICE. painted by G. & J. GRIERSON, HER MAJESTY's PRINTERSDUBLIN–1851.
See, I have cuLed the flowers that promised best;
And where not sure—perplexed, but pleased—I've guessed
At such as seemed the fairest.
In tiie compilation of this work an attempt has been made to combine several important objects. The value «f selections of good poetry for the use of schools in cultivating the taste, improving the moral character, and awakening a desire for the acquisition of useful knowledge, has been fully appreciated by the most eminent authorities on the education of youth. It has been justly observed by Miss Aiken, that " the magic of rhyme is felt in the very cradle—the mother and the nurse employ it as a spell of soothing power. The taste for harmony, the poetical ear, if ever acquired, is so almost during infancy. The flow of numbers easily impresses itself on the memory, and is with difficulty erased. By the aid of verse, a store of beautiful imagery and glowing sentiment may be gathered up as the amusement of childhood, which in riper years may beguile the heavy hours of languor, solitude, and sorrow; may enforce sentiments of piety, humanity, and tenderness; may soothe the soul to calmness, rouse it to honourable exertion, or fire it with virtuous indignation."
These correct views of the advantages and pleasure which the great majority of persons derive from reading genuine poetry, are enforced at greater length in the following extract from Mr. James Gray's interesting life of Robert Fergusson, the Scottish 'poet:— "Works of philosophy and science," says this biographical writer, " are only the study of a few superior minds, but the productions of imagination are perused by men of every description. The learned and the ignorant, the grave and the gay, the young and the old, find something attractive in the varied pages of th"
inspired bard. Hence is the tendency of such effusion; ot the utmost importance in forming the taste, and cul tivating the moral perceptions, especially of the youth ful mind. A heroic spirit has been roused by a patriotic song, a hard and proud mind softened to sympathy by a powerful representation of fictitious distress, The distant wanderer, restored to his native scenes by a lively description, has blessed the poet's pen; the solitary thoughts of the invalid have been transported to green fields and cooling streams, and his languid ear charmed with the woodland song; even the pious soul is awakened to a more exalted feeling of devotion by the divine strains of the inspired minstrel.
"The pleasure we derive from the works of the poet naturally leads us to reflect on his character; we feel more acquainted with him than with authors of a different description; and it is only in him that we not only allow egotism, but perhaps feel most interested when he speaks of himself. We feel the deepest sympathy in Milton's blindness; in reading Cowper, we delight in the sweet shades of Olney, and wish we could take a seat on the sofa and participate in the intellectual conversation of its drawing-room. Can a Scotsman think of Burns repeating the ' Cotter's Saturday-night' to his brother Gilbert, when returning from a hard day's labour at the plough, without a proud feeling that he belongs to a country that could produce such a peasant? How much do we lament that we know so little of Shakspeare, who knew so much of us all; whose living scenes could depict every human heart, and lay open its inmost feelings ; whose portraits represent the concealed villain in his native colours, till the resemblance awakens the anguish of remorse; whose wild imagery transports us to a different region of existence; whose tenderness softens the hardest, whose sublimity exalts the lowest, and whose humour rouses the most torpid mind!"
Concurring in the opinion that poetry, judiciously
selected, produces the beneficial results so clearly de
. scribed in the foregoing extracts, and that it may be
rendered subservient to important purposes in the in