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cumbered works of a cast similar to that of the present volume.
Of the vast body of poetry produced in the island since the commencement of the present century, a portion of a limited volume can present but a slender outline; and the compiler regrets the reluctant omission of many authors, whose original thinking, and correct and beautiful poetic sentiment, have added lustre to the literature of the pre
The selections from the very early poets have been made more extensive than is usual in works of this character, chiefly on account of the facilities afforded by these writers for tracing the history and the vicissitudes of the language. The changes undergone by our tongue, between the beginning of the fifteenth century, the period of Chaucer’s death, and the seventeenth, are, as is natural from the circumstances of the history of literature among all modern nations, far more striking and observable than in the two centuries which have since elapsed. It has long been an object of regret among literary men, that our elder authors have been buried under the weight of an absurd, and often apparently fortuitous, orthography, which obscures to the eye, and consequently to the intelligence, the meaning and beauty of the text. Accordingly, in the extracts from Chaucer and his immediate successors, the modern orthography has been adopted, except in so far as is requisite for the harmony of the lines, or for the preservation of the antique aspect of the pieces. The controversy respecting the theory of the versification of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries rendered this limitation necessary. For a brief view of the principles of this controversy, we place before our readers the following two quotations; the one from the late Mr D'Israeli's " Amenities of Literature," the other from the Introductory Essay of Mr R. H. Horne, prefixed to “Chaucer Modernised by Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt, &c."
“ Tyrwhit has ingeniously constructed a metrical sys
POETRY AND POETS
FROM CHAUCER TO TENNYSON,
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, AND A RAPID VIEW OF THE
CHARACTERISTIC ATTRIBUTES OF EACH,
AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY
ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF ENGLISH POETICAL
From the reception which the following body of selections from the poetry of our country has met with, it has been suggested to the publishers, that the volume may not prove unacceptable to readers beyond the sphere of those for whom it was in the first place specifically intended. They have therefore resolved to issue it in a form more adapted to the library, or to the drawing-room table.
The leading principle which governed the compiler in the choice of the pieces, was their suitableness for the purposes of education : but in no national poetry, perhaps, can this object be so easily combined with the selection of the pleasing and the beautiful, as in that of England. The following extracts will therefore be found to contain a large proportion of what will be read and studied, not only with instruction but with delight, while the extent over which the extracts range will furnish, to students of our British poetry, a succinct and comprehensive manual of its history and its characteristics.
It has been objected, that the compiler has not exhibited with sufficient breadth the dramatic literature of the period included in the later portion of the sixteenth and the earlier portion of the seventeenth century. He is himself perfectly aware of this, and has assigned a reason for this course.* He was unwilling to compress farther his already
* See Life of Marlow, p. 74.