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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
TO PARENTS. SINCE dragons and fairies, giants and witches, have vanished from our nurseries before the wand of reason, it has been a prevailing maxim, 'that the young mind should be fed on mere prose and simple matter of fact. A fear, rational in its origin, of adding, by superstitious and idle terrors, to the natural weakness of childhood, or contaminating, by any thing false or impure, its truth and innocence has, by some writers, and some parents, been carried to so great an excess, that probably no work would be considered by them as unexceptionable for the use of children, in which any scope was allowed to the fanciful or marvellous. It may well be questioned, however, whether the novel-like tales now written for the amusement of youth, may not be productive of more injury to the mind, A 2
by giving a false picture of the real world, than the fairy fictions of the last generation, which only wandered over the region of shadows;-whether a romantic sensibility be not an evil, more formidable in magnitude, and protracted in duration, than a wild and exalted fancy.
Poetry has many advantages for children over both these classes of writing. The magic of ryme 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 impresse 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 soothe the heavy hours of languor, solitude, and sorrow, may strengthen feelings of piety, humanity, and tenderness, may soothe the soul to calmness, rouse it to honourable exertion, or fire it with virtuous indignation.
But when we consider how many of the subjects of verse are unintelligible to children, or improper for them-how few poems have been written, or how few. poets could be trusted to write, to them--we shall not be surprised to find it a frequent complaint with judicious instructors, that so few pieces proper for children to commit to memory are to be found either in the entire works of poets,, or in selections made from them, purposely for the use of young people. To meet the wishes of such parents and teachers, is the object of the following selection. It was thought that all the pieces ought to be short enough to be learned at one or two lessons, and good enough to be worth remembering; that their style should have nothing in it that a welleducated child might not, their matter nothing that he should not, understand, as soon as he should be at all able to feel the beauties of
Natural history, that popular and delightful study, justly claimed a considerable part of the
work, as being at once pleasing and useful to children.
Description, of different times and seasons, of objects of nature and art, of various occupations and modes. of life, opened another copious source. Moral sentiment, where it was to be found free from such theological dogmas, as might be thought incomprehensible or uninteresting, furnished a third portion. Miscellaneous scraps, laboriously gleaned from a vast number of poets, formed the remainder of the little volume.
No arrangement appeared necessary—the only point of this nature that has been studied wasto mingle the pieces as inuch as possible. Some valuable poems were passed over on account of their occurrence in almost all other selections—the brevity required in the pieces precluded the insertion of others--but it is hoped that the smallness of the work will exculpate the compiler from the imputation of any
sins of omission. Some liberties have unavoidably been taken, in order to make wholes of fragments.
Such is the plan of the work of its execution the compiler can only say that it has cost much time, and much thought.
It is now trusted to a candid public, with the hope, that a performance, aspiring, from its very nature, to little applause - will not incur the hazard of much censure,