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The reader will observe that the pages from 288 to 294 are repeated. And that the pages from 294 to 301 appear to be left out. The text, however, is right.
The office of Poetry is to elevate, purify, and soften the human character; and thus promote civil, moral, and religious advancement. It does this in a three-fold manner; by inculcating reverence and love towards God, or piety; awakening the spirit of national aggrandizement, or policy ; teaching the true relations of men to each other and to Nature, or Philosophy. All poetry, which has not, at least, one of these three aims, is false to its trust, and, whatever may be its temporary popularity, will die and be forgotten.
Truth only is immortal -- and as Ideality, of all the faculties which man possesses, is the one gifted to ascend, as it were, to heaven, to bring thence the holy fire to illumine reason and kindle up the moral feelings, and is also fitted for continual progress towards perfection, it follows, that individuals having this endowment, are delegated to discover and display those aspects and relations of truth, which God, for purposes of wise discipline, no doubt, has placed within the compass of man's genius, but has not revealed to his instincts and senses; yet which must be understood and obeyed before he can be good, wise, and happy.
We may see, in this constitution of man's nature, why there are periods, when poetry seems to decline and lose its power. These are seasons of transition; when the mass of mankind, having applied to the purposes of advancement, the old forms of truth, are restless for some new development of her power, usefulness, and beauty; while the poet, instead of ministering to this craving of the soul, only serves up the ancient models in new modes of expression. As easily might he reanimate an Egyptian mummy, by clothing it in modern habiliments, as now impose on mankind those forms of truth which made the wisdom of the Egyptians. The perfection of the poetic art will be reached, when its just philosophy shall enlighten and control its worldly' policy, and both shall bring their richest treasures to the service and promotion of true piety.
The poetry of devotion, or piety, can only be perfected where the knowledge of the true God prevails. This is the poetry of the Bible; the first on record; and the sacred lyre was early in the hand of woman, (witness the song of Deborah,) and in her hand it should be found.
The great poets of the heathen world were those of policy only; for their gods were of human invention and human passions ; and much, very much of the poetry of Christian bards rises no higher than the heathen standard. It is the lofty and complete picture of national aggrandizement which Homer and Virgil drew, not the greatness of the deeds, aims and passions they describe, that makes their works standards of human genius in this department of poetry. But here, woman has no place; her harp cannot move stones, nor tame beasts. She must wait till the flowers bloom and the birds appear. But when, in the progress of truth, policy (or selfishness) gives place to juster notions of what constitutes human happiness, then “divine philosophy” comes to the poet's aid, breathes into his soul the wisdom from above, gifts him to see and reveal the glories and mysteries of Nature, and teach that “true self love and social are the same;" that there is no pursuit really noble and good, that does not aim to promote the good of others; and no dignity and purity in man, that is not derived from his spiritual likeness to his Saviour. In this, the best and most exalted office of the muse, woman is morally gifted to excel. She has already entered on her province. It is to encourage her efforts, and dispose all who are wishing for the advancement of morals, to reflect on the aid which, in the present state of society, the cultivated genius of woman may impart, that I have prepared this volume.
Two principles have guided my selections; one, to admit no poetry unless its aim was “ upward and onward;” the other, to allow place to those writers only whose style had some peculiar stamp of individuality, which marked their genius as original; and I have sought to give characteristic specimens from each.
I am aware that there are critics, who always speak of the "true feminine style," as though there was only one manner in which ladies could properly write poetry. I ask such to compare the poems of Mrs. Hemans and Mary Howitt, of Miss Taylor and Miss Landon, of Mrs. Sigourney and Miss Gould. Are not all these productions beautifully feminine, and yet different in their style of beauty? The truth is, woman has not such unlimited range of subjects as man; but in the manner of treating those within her prov. ince, she has a freedom as perfect as his; and the delicate shades of genius are as varied and distinctly marked in the one sex as its bold outlines are in the other. There are more varieties of the rose than of the oak.
I cannot but believe that this book will find favor in the eyes of my own sex. It is particularly intended for young ladies-as a mirror, bright and polished, in which they may see reflected the beauty of virtue, the loveliness of the domestic affections, and the "happiness of piety; as a wreath, whose flowers will always bloom to give pleasure, whenever the heart is opened to their influence.
Boston, November 1st, 1836.
INDEX OF POEMS.
PART FIRST.-ENGLISH AUTHORS.