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some which reflect a mood of sadness, or of troubled and anxious questioning, and which have in them something of despondency, or of the hope that falls short of a deep settled faith, it is because these times of uneasiness and of unrest are often, assuredly, a man's most earnest and most thoughtful seasons ; and the sincere utterance of his troubled or sorrowful thought may be a help and relief, both for himself and for others who are passing through the same phase—may be the first step in the ascent towards the region of the true divine life and light.
There are other poems, too, which will be more helpful and will seem more true to some minds than to others, according to their spiritual needs; and I have purposely avoided applying any very rigid personal test, that might make the whole contents of the volume too closely conformable to my own especial taste and feeling. The Poet's clearest and truest word will often reveal some particular side of the truth, and will come home to those hearts which need that especial knowledge ; and a book which is designed to be a treasury of poetic thought and faith, must set forth many phases of the Inner Life, while all are made one in the uniting Spirit of love and truth, the Spirit of God—the Spirit which was given freely to us all in the Life and in the Gospel of His Beloved Son.
It is in this sense that I have chiefly desired that this should be a selection of Religious, or Christian Poetry-Poetry which, as Wordsworth desired for his own verse, may serve to console the afflicted ; to add sunshine to daylight, by making the happy happier ; to teach the young and the gracious of every age to see, to think, and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous.”—It is Religious Poetry, in no narrow, technical sense of the word ; but amidst all the variety of its themes, there is a constant reference to that deeper principle of religion which underlies all the Theologies, and which is at the heart of the true inner life of Nature and of Man, of Earth and of Heaven.
The difficulty has been, as might be supposed, not to find materials for such a book, but how to select from the treasures which lie open to choose from. I have omitted, for the most part, the poems (as those of Charles Wesley, Bishop Heber, and Milman) which are to be met with in various hymn books in use in the churches ; and have taken comparatively little from the familiar volumes of devotional poetry, of which “ The Christian Year," or the “Lyra Germanica,” may be mentioned, as types. I have, indeed, drawn no line, which would exclude what has been endeaied by hallowed associations, and long and fond familiarity ; but I have been obliged to leave out much that I would gladly have inserted, in order that I might avail myself, as I wished, of the privilege of selection from many authors who would not be classed with the “sacred poets,” but whose works furnish some of the highest and noblest teachings concerning the life of love and faith and duty.
In the plan and arrangement of the book, nothing like an accurate classification of subjects has been attempted, still less of the aspects of Nature and Human Life.
A few general divisions only have been adopted, which may serve to group the poems, so as to avoid any manifest incongruity in their order.
In all cases the original text has been adhered to, wherever it could be procured ; and the altered readings which may be noticed in several instances, are due to the kindness of the Authors, who have themselves taken the trouble to revise the
proofs for the press.* The very few omissions which I have ventured to make will, in each case, be found mentioned in the notes at the end of the volume ; and the titles which I have given to poems which the Authors had left unnamed, are distinguished in the Index by being printed in italics.
In conclusion, there remains the pleasant duty of thanking, as I do most sincerely, the Authors, Publishers, and other owners of copyright, who have so kindly and willingly given me permission to reprint the pieces which I have included in my selection, and without whose generous consent, I should have been unable to carry out a long-cherished plan.
And now I send forth my book to see whether it be wanted in the world. And I shall be richly rewarded for whatever time and pains have been spent on the work, if it should be found worthy of a place amongst the aids to the religious life—a welcome friend on bright days—a solace and comfort on dark
R. C. J.
NO mber, 1865.
* For a list of errata see p. 276