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within my present range England has been favoured with the long lives and persistent powers of our two most eminent singers, whilst few of real promise have been cut off prematurely.
Hence, also, despite this whole volume dedicated to a harvest of song more copious than even that famed Elizabethan outflowering, it has not been possible to renew the attempt made in the former book, wherein with but three or four exceptions on the ground of length, all our best lyrics (so far as I could judge) were gathered: and a selection only from the finest work of our greater Victorian poets (so far as my choice may have been happy) can alone be offered here. It should therefore be remembered that many famous and favourite beauties must inevitably be wanting from the present portrait gallery: but I have tried to make the specimens characteristic of each writer's genius. Despite, however, the wide difference between the work, for example, of Browning and Tennyson, the present series, as representing only the spirit of less than a single century, wears a certain monotony of character compared with the vast range of style exhibited in the earlier volume. Yet - and yet - after all, this little book, as I turn the pages over, see
to have a variety and wealth of power and beauty, which, its range considered, is wonderful.
This second Treasury has cost thrice the labour of the first. For nothing, it need scarcely be said, is harder than to form an estimate even remotely accurate of our own contemporary artists, whatever the sphere of their art. This difficulty, in the former book, was far less. For its contents, the verdict of Time had been already largely given, and I had also that invaluable assistance which my Dedication acknowledges. I may however add (asking pardon for egotis) that the best endeavour within my power has been made to hold the balance even between substance and form, the figure or the drapery, - and beauty always the last impression, — by spreading the choice over three or four years during which the poets have been searched and read over, and the results noted at many months' interval. Some check on a choice necessarily imperfect, and indeed convincing
only when the verdict of Time has been given, - it is hoped may thus have been gained. But a personal element always remains, too often refusing to be excluded; especially in case of early favourites, and the haunting music which has seized on our youth, and passed perhaps physically into the very nerves or whatever may be that mysterious organ of Memory which transacts its secret and inexplicable life within the soul's furthest recesses.
The selection has been brought, near as I can venture, to our own day. But, especially in case of those later singers whose course is not yet run, it is all too soon even to attempt a valuation. Many indeed and bright are the blossoms springing up among us, though nightshade and yewberries be not absent. It were, however, presumption if we attempted with the microscope of criticism to classify these growths, or decide whether they belong to the children's 'Adonis Garden' of cut flowers, or the true 'immortal amaranth. This I leave to other hands than mine in the far-off summers. I have however tried my best to fill the book with such Underwoods (to take Jonson's phrase) as the early Roman poet Naevius spoke of wherein the copse-wood is sown by natural process, not planted; '
Ingenio arbusta ubi nata sunt, non insita : a definition, more than two thousand years old, of the strange spell which lifts verse into poetry which it would be difficult to improve. — But here that wearisomely familiar 'tastes differ' warns that no invitation to its critical exercise more liberal and alluring can be held out, than is offered by a selection like the present. One of the worldly-wise Goethe's best aphorisms was that his opinion on any matter was immensely strengthened if he found it accepted by any one fellow-creature. But I cannot hope even as much acceptance for this book. Varieties in taste, often deeply rooted and strenuously held, will lead every reader to condemn me for omissions and inclusions : inevitably, and rightly. For such judgments reveal the power which poetry, our own recent poetry in especial, holds over us. They testify
to life. All the leniency that can be asked is the reflection that to love the rose need not carry with it scorn of the lily; while the flowers of the Victorian domain are so multitudinous and so nobly large in the blossom, — like those sixty-leaved roses which Herodotus, two thousand and more years since, heard of in the king's garden below Mount Bermion, - that a limited, an imperfect garland only can be collected within the garth allowed me.
It is my pleasant duty here to give thanks once for all to the copyright proprietors or publishers who have kindly permitted me to transfer their treasures, sometimes almost too graspingly, to the enrichment of this Anthology. Should any claims have been overlooked by inadvertence I ask forgiveness. Special acknowledgments will be found in the notes.
I deeply regret, and every reader will regret with me, that I am not able to adorn my pages with examples of Mr. A. C. Swinburne's brilliant lyrical gift.
After the lapse of six-and-thirty years to complete a book brings with it an inevitable sadness: the longing for the irrevocable; the sigh for the old familiar faces; — of his, perhaps, here above all, who privileged me to dedicate to his honoured name that first volume to which he gave such invaluable aid: it is a feeling such as that to which Goethe, in one of his most beautiful lyrics, gave expression,
Sie hören nicht die folgenden Gesänge,
Die Seelen, denen ich die ersten sang: Yet I may hope perhaps for new friends to replace the lost. Kind readers ! -- if I have the fortune to find such — may this little selection, like the former, with whatever deficiencies, be the draught tempting you to approach, in their free fullness, the inexhaustible and invigorating fountains, old and new, of England's Helicon.
F. T. P. February 1897
The Golden Treasury
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams ;World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams :
Of the world for ever, it seems.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory : One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown; And three with a new song's measure
Can trample a kingdom down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
To the old of the new world's worth ;
What does little birdie say
A. Lord Tennyson
When Letty had scarce pass’d her third glad year,