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Ref.-S. walhor 6-20-25
THERE are wide differences in the fame of the poems here collected, as well as in their merits. Some are familiar to everybody that reads poetry at all; others find reputation and perpetuity only with particular classes. Some are admired only by those who know nothing of real poetry; others almost require poets for appreciative readers. A few, like those of Bishop Berkeley and Michael Barry, have been saved from oblivion by a single happy line or quatrain; while the richness and perfection of many leave us in wonder that their authors produced no more. If critical judgment in such matters is worth anything when opposed to a popular verdict, some of these authors have written, for no reward at all, better poems than those that have given them fame. However that may be, this volume is intended to represent popular rather than critical taste, and to include all the poems in the language that fairly come under its title, excepting only those numerous anonymous ballads, belonging to the early centuries of our literature, which are preserved in Percy's and other similar collections.
It is not expected that any one reader will prize all the pieces here brought together; if each finds what he looks for, no one need be offended because the book also includes some that he could have spared. Collecting poetry
is like poking the fire; nobody can sit by and see it done, without thinking that he himself could do it a little better, -as in truth he could, if it were for him alone. In all such work it is necessary to make a personal equation -a small allowance for quickness or slowness of apprehension in the individual. Taking this into account, I hope the volume will be found to exhibit a generous appreciation of widely varied expressions of the poetic art.
In a few instances the plan of the collection has been literally, but I think not essentially, transcended. Charles Wolfe wrote two other poems equally famous if not equally popular with "The Burial of Sir John Moore," and Francis M. Finch's "Nathan Hale" had an established place before he wrote "The Blue and the Gray." The best solution for this apparent difficulty seemed to be to include them all.
My thanks are due to living writers represented, for permission to use their poems. The utmost pains have been taken to make the text absolutely correct, and in many instances the author's own manuscript has been used. Where the poems have any special history, it will be found in the notes at the end of the book.
NEW YORK, September 1, 1890.
I WOULD NOT LIVE ALWAY,
William A. Muhlenberg
Anna L. Barbauld
Eliza Sproat Turner