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PO E T RY:
SELECTIONS FROM DISTINGUISHED
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN POETS.
FROM CHAUCER TO THE PRESENT DAY.
THE WHOLE ARRANGED IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, WITH BIOGRAPHICAL AND
PRINCIPAL OF THE PHILADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL, AND MEMBER Or TAE
AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY.
PUBLISHED BY E. H. BUTLER & CO.
1872, clóv. 29.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1844, hy
BUTLER & WILLIAMS in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court of the wted States
in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
THE literature of a nation cannot fail to contain within
itself that which has made the nation what it is. Those great ideas, which in the course of centuries have been gradually developed by its master minds, are the moving springs that have set the nation onwards in the career of civilization. Great ideas precede and cause illustrious achievements. The ideal Achilles made the real heroes of Marathon and the Granicus. In the Anglo-Saxon race, from the days of Alfred until now, men of superior genius, the original thinkers in each successive generation, have given birth to ennobling thoughts, which continue to endure, and are perpetuated not only in the language but in the race itself. We are what preceding generations have made us. Englishmen and Americans of the present day are living exponents of the thoughts and truths elaborated by the illustrious dead.
In making, then, a compilation like the present,
intended chiefly for the use of those whose characters and opinions are still but partially formed, it has been deemed important to select not only master-pieces of style, but also master-pieces of thought. It is believed to be a defect in some of the more recent publications, intended as reading-books for schools, that sufficient care has not been used in regard to the sentiments contained in them. Such books very often, indeed, contain pleasing descriptions, and interesting stories, written in an agreeable style, and capable of affording amusement for children of a certain age. But they are not of that masculine character that stimulates the mind to action, or that gives it materials to act upon; and they not unfrequently cultivate a taste for reading of the most unprofitable description.
The unbounded popularity which belonged to the old “ English Reader” of Lindley Murray, and which still clings to it, notwithstanding its somewhat antiquated character, was undoubtedly due to the value of the materials inserted in his collection. The same materials still exist; and, since his day, large additions have been made to the stock of thoughts that, in the language of Milton, “posterity will not willingly let die.” No literature, probably, is more opulent than ours. No litera ture contains nobler or more numerous instances of
“ thoughts that breathe and words that burn;"-of sentiments uttered centuries ago, that are to this day “familiar as household words” wherever, in any quarter of the globe, an educated Englishman or American is to be found. It should be a constituent part of Common School ekication, to furnish the youthful mind with some at least of those rich stores of wisdom that lie scattered through the writings of our distinguished authors. There is something contagious in the fire of genius:the mind receives an impulse by the mere contact with one of superior intellect. The minds of the young especially receive growth and strength by being made early acquainted with whatever is best of its kind in every field of English literature.
In making his selections for the present work, the compiler has purposely drawn less freely from authors of the present day; not from holding them in less esteem, but because they are already in a thousand forms accessible to every body that can read. By adopting this course, room was left, without unduly encumbering the work, for more copious extracts from those great storehouses of thought which are in a measure accessible only to the few.
The work is divided into two parts; “ The Class Book of Poetry,” and “ The Class Book of Prose.”