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It has been my endeavor in preparing this anthology to present, as adequately as might be possible within the limits of a handy volume, the best in Great Britain's non-dramatic poetry from Chaucer to Kipling, and this without exaggerating or minimizing the importance of any poet or period.
The unusual resources of the Harvard library, in point of first editions, reprints, and definitive editings, have made it possible for me to obtain always an authoritative text, and in not a few instances to correct errors. As I have chosen to keep the pages free from foot-notes (except for glosses on words not found in modern English dictionaries) I have not, as a rule, indicated the source of a text.
The too common practice of printing isolated stanzas as if they were complete poems is one from which I have refrained. Nor have I sought to improve a poet's work by excising weak lines or stanzas. If a poem is not printed in its entirety, the fact is noted. The only poem from which any integral part has been omitted without apprising the reader of the fact is THE PRIORESSES TALE of Chaucer, which has been shorn of a final stanza expressive of a race-hatred fortunately now abated and better forgotten. For excerpts, a title descriptive of the subject-matter of the extract has been provided, and at the close is given the title of the poem from which the extract is drawn, and also the location of the part within the whole. In a few cases only, when a poem would require more space than could be afforded it, I have allowed myself to make an abridgment. To distinguish abridgments from excerpts, I have preserved to them the title of the original, and printed at the end, “From the poem of the same title.” An exception is the excerpt-abridgment from A MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES.
It has made for uniformity to designate sonnets from sequences by the word “Sonnets” merely, and when the sequence possessed a title to indicate it after the last sonnet. Unless for
have been adopted and ex adequate cause, modern spellings have been adopted; and, except for reasons that will be obvious, poets follow chronological order of birth rather than of production. The selections under each poet have been arranged chronologically with occasional exceptions (when such exceptions would not be of moment) if a slight change of sequence would produce a more pleasing arrangement of the pages.
I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Professors George Lyman Kittredge, William Allan Neilson, and Barrett Wendell, of Harvard University, for the interest they have taken in the book, and for valuable suggestions:
To Professor George Herbert Palmer, also of Harvard, not only for the interest he has shown, but also for the generous way in which at all times he has given me access to his wide collection of rare editions:
To Professor Henry MacCracken, of Yale University, for the text of a recently discovered poem by John Lydgate:
To Miss Lydia Adams Richardson, of the Rock Ridge School, for assistance in preparing the manuscript for the press:
To Mr. Rudyard Kipling and to Messrs. Doubleday, Page and Company for permission to reprint The Last CHANTEY:
And to Mr. Rudyard Kipling for permission to reprint RECESSIONAL
P. A. HUTCHISON. Cambridge, Mass.,