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of Cowley, would recoil from an invitation to spend an hour amongst the Blackbirds and Goldfinches of Mr. Richard Jago, or the drowsy odes of Dr. Yalden.
The compilation has cost more labour than the result may appear to justify; for nothing that seems so easy is really so difficult as the work of selection. Only a part of the labour is represented in the book; by far the heavier part lies outside of it, in the rejections. The pleasure of sitting in judgment upon a multitude of delectable flavours is accompanied by inevitable pains and penalties in the tasting. To hit the true Hippocrene is as perplexing in the vintage of the imagination as in that of the grape, and is attended by similar embarrassments and misgivings. The reasons for rejection are not always so conclusive as to make the verdict perfectly satisfactory, and they are consequently sifted over and over again; questions of taste are constantly re-opened; and in trimming the balance of choice, with a due regard to space and variety, exquisite samples which had been set aside for use have often been finally relinquished, and poems which had been rejected at first have been ultimately admitted. And thus the Editor, lost in the mixed delights and disappointments of his task, expends a world of fruitless hours over his GOLDEN LEAVES, and in the end puts his trust rather in the intrinsic excellence of his materials, than in his own skill in choosing or presenting them.
While availing myself of such passages only as should be held to be unexceptionable in the present day, I have kept in view the not less important consideration of selecting such as should also reflect, as far as practicable in so narrow a compass, the genius of the author, and the taste and tendencies of the age. The poems, or passages from poems, contained in this volume have not, therefore, been always chosen for the sake of mere beauty of thought or expression, but sometimes upon other and
higher grounds of interest, personal, literal, or historical. To this class belong the solitary verses of Bacon and Essex, which, by a slight infringement of the order of chronology, are here kept together, not only because of the relations that existed between the writers, but because these curious productions throw a remarkable light upon each other.
In most cases entire pieces have been preferred to excerpta from longer ones.
But where Minor Poems failed to yield adequate examples, or were not of sufficient value for transplantation, the selections have been made from larger and more elaborate works. In all these instances, such passages have been chosen as supplied a complete whole in themselves, and suffered nothing by separation from the context.
No Collection of this kind can entirely satisfy the general expectation. Many readers will miss a favourite piece which was justly entitled to a place; but they must not suppose that it was overlooked, or its claims disallowed. The superabundance of our poetical wealth is responsible for the omissions it renders inevitable. English poetry is as rich in strains which touch individual chords of feeling, as in that music which reaches the universal heart. Allowance will be made for the impossibility of embracing these infinite varieties in a single volume. It would not be practicable for an orchestra, however competent and zealous, to treat a miscellaneous audience, within a limited time, to all the popular tunes particular persons might desire.
Whoever misses anything he looks for, will, I hope, find something he did not expect. Let the acquisition of the new pleasure be accepted as compensation for the absence of the
I may claim for the volume that in this respect it is unusually rich, and that it contains some names, and many choice specimens, which now appear for the first time in a Book of Selections.
A glance at the Table of Contents will discover how largely
The Mariner's Song,
DAVENANT, Sir William.
The Lover's Day-break,
DAVIES, SIR JOHN.
DENHAM, Sir John.
Cooper's Hill, .
The Poet to his Lyre,'. .
The Character of Shaftesbury, .
The Flowers of the Forest,
Essex, ROBERT, EARL OF.
A Ship striking on a Reef,
The Morning Call,
The Origin of the Fan,
A Winter Sabbath Walk, .
Elegy written in a Country Church-
A Maiden Lady,