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happiness and greatness; and should receive as much of the fostering care of government as is extended to the agriculturist or manufacturer.
There is nothing in our country to prevent the successful cultivation of literature and the arts, provided the government places our own authors upon an equality with their foreign rivals, by making it possible to publish their works at the same prices. A National Literature is not necessarily confined to local subjects; but if it were, we have no lack of themes for romance, poetry, or any other sort of writing, even though the new relations which man sustains to his fellows in these commonwealths did not exist. The perilous adventures of the Northmen; the noble heroism of Columbus; the rise and fall of the Peruvian and Mexican empires; the colonization of New-England by the Puritans; the witchcraft delusion; the persecution of the Quakers and Baptists; the rise and fall of the French dominion in the Canadas; the overthrow of the great confederacy of the Five Nations; the settlement of New-York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, by people of the most varied and picturesque characters; the beautiful and poetical mythology of the aborigines; and that revolution, resulting in our independence and equal liberty, which forms a barrier between the traditionary past and the familiar present: all abound with themes for imaginative literature. Turning from these subjects to those of a descriptive character, we have a variety not less extensive and interesting. The chains of mountains which bind the continent; the inland seas between Itasca and the ocean; caverns, in which whole nations might be hidden; the rivers, cataracts, and sea-like prairies; and all the varieties of land, lake, river, sea and sky, between the gulfs of Mexico and Hudson, are full of them.
The elements of power in all sublime sights and heavenly harmonies should live in the poet's song. The sense of beauty, next to the miraculous divine suasion, is the means through which the human character is purified and elevated. The creation of beauty, the manifestation of the real by the ideal, in "words that move in metrical array," is the office of the poet.
This volume embraces specimens from a great number of authors; and though it may not contain all the names which deserve admission, the judicious critic will be more likely to censure me for the wide range of my selections than for any omissions. In regard In regard to the number of poems I have given from particular writers, it is proper to state that considerations unconnected with any estimates of their comparative merit have in some cases guided me. The collected works of several poets have been frequently
printed and are generally familiar, while the works of others, little less deserving of consideration, are comparatively unknown.
There is in all the republic scarcely a native inhabitant of Saxon origin who cannot read and write. Every house has its book closet and every town its public library. The universal prevalence of intelligence, and that self-respect and confidence arising from political and social equality, have caused a great increase of writers. Owing, however, to the absence of a just system of copyright, the rewards of literary exertion are so precarious that but a small number give their exclusive attention to literature. A high degree of excellence, especially in poetry, is attained only by constant and quiet study and cultivation. Our poets have generally written with too little preparation, and too hastily, to win enduring reputations.
In selecting the specimens in the work, I have regarded humorous and other rhythmical compositions, not without merit in their way, as poetry, though they possess few of its true elements. It is so common to mistake the form for the divine essence, that I should have been compelled to omit the names of many who are popularly known as poets, had I been governed by a more strict definition.
PHILADELPHIA, March, 1842.
The Spanish Maid..
On Greenough's Group of the Angel and Child.........
On a Falling Group in the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo.81
On Rembrant: occasioued by his Picture of Jacob's Dream..81
On the Pictures, by Rubens, in the Luxembourg Gallery...81
To my venerable Friend Benjamin West....
On seeing the Picture of Eolus, by Peligrino Tibaldi.
Thoughts while making a Grave for a first Child, born dead....309