« PreviousContinue »
The first and second editions of Lyra Elegantiarum were published in 1867. The present edition differs from the editions of 1867 in containing many poems of writers deceased since that date, as well as others by earlier writers now first added. Numerous poems which were inserted in the editions of 1867 have also been omitted in order to make room for others whose claims seemed greater. The Dedication on the opposite page is that of the original edition issued during the lifetime of Dean Milman. The Preface has been carefully revised, but in the main repeats the original.
TO THE VERY REVEREND HENRY HART MILMAN, D.D.,
THE DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S.
DEAR MR. DEAN,
You have given me great pleasure in allowing me to dedicate this little work to yourself. I hesitated to ask the favour, because the book might seem to be of too trisling a character, to be connected with so venerable a name; but then I remembered your universal appreciation of every branch of our literature, and also the kindly interest which you took in the scheme when I first mentioned it to you.
I trust that the principle of my selection will meet your approval. I feel sure you will make allowance for many shortcomings, and will charitably believe that the Editor tried to do his best.
Dear Mr. Dean,
So many collections of favourite poetical pieces, appealing to nearly every variety of taste, have been published of late years that some apology may seem due to the public for adding yet another volume to the number already in existence.
But although there have been sentimental, heroic, humorous, lyrical, juvenile, and devotional collections, there is another kind of poetry which was more in vogue in the reign of Queen Anne, and, indeed, in Ante-Reform-Bill times, than it is at the present day ; a kind which, in its more restricted form, has somewhat the same relation to the poetry of lofty imagination and deep feeling, that the Dresden China Shepherds and Shepherdesses of the last century bear to the sculpture of Donatello and Michael Angelo ; namely, smoothly written verse, where a boudoir decorum is, or ought always to be, preserved; where sentiment never surges into passion, and where humour never overflows into boisterous merriment. The Editor is not aware that a Collection of this peculiar species of exquisitely rounded and polished verse, which, for want of a better title, he has called Lyra Elegantiarum, has ever yet been offered to the public.
Hitherto this kind of metrical composition has remained difficult of access to the majority of readers, because its most finished specimens have often lain scattered among masses of poetry, more ambitious in aim, but frequently far less worthy of preservation. It seems only reasonable, then, that those who delight in this lighter verse should be enabled to enjoy their favourite pieces in a single volume.
In commencing his task the Editor's first endeavour was to frame a definition of vers d'occasion, or social verse, with sufficient clearness to guide him in making his selection, and he has been desirous of rendering the collection as comprehensive as possible. His second endeavour was to choose those pieces which most completely reached this ideal standard. But it will be easily understood that no exact line of demarcation can in all cases be maintained, and that such verse frequently approximates to other kinds of poetry, such as the song, the parody, the epigram, and even the riddle.
Lest any reader who may not be familiar with this description of poetry should be misled by the adoption of the French title, which the absence of any precise English equivalent seems to render necessary, it may be as well to observe that such verse by no means need be confined to topics of conventional life. Subjects of the most important as well as the most trivial character, may be treated with equal success, provided the manner of their treatment is in accordance with the following characteristics, which the Editor ventures to submit as expressive of his own ideas on this subject. In his judgment Occasional Verse should be short, graceful, refined, and fanciful, not seldom distinguished