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FROM the beginnings of civilisation the poets have been the best of educators; and the need for the kind of education which poetry alone can give does not grow less as knowledge advances and the claims of other studies threaten more and more to absorb attention. No apology is required, therefore, for turning to school use the best collection that has been made, or is likely to be made, of the English and Scottish lyric poetry of the eighteenth century.
Some defence, however, may be looked for from the commentator who has the presumption to seem to stand between the poets and their reader. Perhaps he would be thought to quibble if he met the charge with a denial of the fact, and urged that, in literal truth, he comes in these pages after the poets and not before them. Such is, indeed, the place he wishes to occupy: to be read after the poems, and in no case until the poem commented upon has been read with care and intelligence.
If this defence be insufficient, he can only repeat what he has said already in the similar edition of Book Fourth; that he does, here in his Preface, honestly "warn the student that the text is the one thing of importance,