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And as to morals, “Poetry,” in the words of Sir Philip Sydney,“ doth not “ only shew the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect of the way, as will entice
any man to enter into it; nay, the Poet dotli, as if your journey should be “ through a fair vineyard, at the very first give you a cluster of grapes, that, “ full of that taste, you may long to pass farther. He beginneth not with ob“ fcure definitions, but he cometh to you with words set in delightful propor“ tion, either accompanied with, or prepared for, the well-enchanting skill of “ music;—and with a tale;—he cometh unto you with a tale, which holdeth “ children from play, and old men from the chimney-corner. Even those hard“ hearted evil men, who think virtue a school-name, and despise the austere “ admonitions of the philosopher, and feel not the inward reasons they stand ( á
upon, yet will be contented to be delighted; which is all the good fellow o Poet seems to promise; and so steal to see the form of goodness; which seen, " they cannot but love, ere themselves be aware, as if they took a medicine of “ cherries."
Thus Poetry, by the gentle, yet certain method of allurement, leads both to learning and to virtue. I conclude, therefore, that, under a few self-evident restri&ions, it is properly addressed to all young minds, in the course of a liberal education.
It muft be confessed, at the same time, that many sensible men, both in the world and in the schools of philosophy, have objected to it. They have thought that a taste for it interfered with an attention to what they call the MAIN
What poet ever fined for heriff? fays Oldham. It is seldom seen that any one discovers mines of gold and silver in Parnassus, says Mr. Locke. Such ideas have predominated in the exchange and in the warehouse; and while they continue to be confined to those places, may perhaps, in some instances, be advantageous. But they ought not to operate on the mind of the gentleman, or the man of a liberal profession; and indeed there is no good reason to be given why the mercantile classes, at least of the higher order, should not amuse their leisure with any pleasures of polite literature.
That some object to the study of Poetry as a part of education, is not to be wondered at, when it is considered that many, from want of natural sensibility, or from long habits of inattention to every thing but fordid interest, are totally unfurnished with faculties for the perception of poetical beauty. But shall we deny the cowslip and violet their vivid colour and sweet fragrance, becauf: the quadruped who feeds in the meadow, tramples over threm without perceiving either their hues or their odours? Against the opposers of Poetry, the taste of mankind, from China to Peru, powerfully militates
Young minds have commonly a taste for Poetry. Unseduced by the love of money, and unhacknied in the ways of vice, they are indeed delighted with na. ture and fact, though unembellished; because all objects with them have the grace of novelty: but they are transported with the charms of Poetry, where the sunshine of fancy diffuses over every thing the fine gloss, the rich colouring, of beautiful imagery and language. “Nature” (to cite Sir Philip Sydney again) “never set forth the earth in so rich tapeftry as diverse poets have done, “ neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-finelling flowers, nor “ whatsoever may make the earth more lovely:--The world is a brazen world 5 —the poets only deliver a GOLDEN; which whoever dislike, the fault is in their judgment, quite out of tafte, and not in the sweet food of SWEETLY-UTTERED KNOWLEDGE,”
It will be readily acknowledged, that ideas and precepts of all kinds, whether of morality or science, make a deeper impression when inculcated by the vivacity, the painting, the melody of poetical language. And what is thus deeply impressed will also long remain; for metre and rhyme naturally catch hold of the memory, as the tendrils of the vine cling round the branches of the elm.
Old Orpheus and Linus are recorded in fable to have drawn the minds of savage men to knowledge, and to have polished human nature, by Poetry. And are not children in the state of nature? And is it not probable that Poetry may be the best instrument to operate on them, as it was found to be on nations in the savage ftate? Since, according to the mythological wisdom of the ancients, Amphion moved ftones, and Orpheus brutes, by music and verse, is it not reasonable to believe, that minds which are dull, and even brutally insensible, may be penetrated, sharpened, softened, and irradiated, by the warm influence of fine Poetry?
But it is really superfluous to expatiate either on the delight or the utility of Poetry. The subje&t has been exhausted; and, whatever a few men of little taste and feeling, or of minds entirely sordid and secular, may object, such are the charms of the Goddess, such her powerful influence over the heart of man, that she will never want voluntary votaries at her shrine. The Author of Nature has kindly implanted in man a love of Poetry, to folace him under the labours and sorrows of life. A great part of the Scriptures is poetry and verse. The wise son of Sirach enumerates, among the most honourable of mankind, SUCH AS FOUND OUT MUSICAL TUNES, AND RECITED VERSES IN WRITING.
With respect to this Compilation, the principal subject of this Preface (but from which I have been feduced into a digression, by giving my fuffrage in favour of an art I love)—if I should be asked what are its pretenhons, 1 must
freely answer, that it professes nothing more than (what is evident at first sight) to be a larger Collection of English Verse, FOR THE USE OF SCHOOLs, than has ever yet been published in ONE VOLUME. The original intention was to comprize in it a great number and variety of such pieces as were already in use in schools, or which seemed proper for the use of them; such a number and variety as might furnish something satisfactory to every taste, and serve as a little Poetical Library for school-boys, precluding the inconvenience and expence of a multitude of volumes.
Such was the design of the Publication. The Editor can claim no praise beyond that of the design. The praise of ingenuity is all due to the Poets whose works have supplied the materials. What merit can there be in directing a famous and popular passage to be inserted from Shakspeare, Milton, Pope, Gray, and many others of less fame, indeed, but in great esteem, and of allowed genius? Their own luitre pointed them out, like stars of the first magnitude in the heavens. There was no occasion for singular acuteness of vision, or of optical glasses, to discover a brightness which obtruded itself on the eye. The best pieces are usually the most popular. They are loudly recommended by the voice of Fame, and indeed have been already selected in a variety of volumes of preceding collections. To confess an humiliating truth, in making a book like this, the land of the artisan is more employed than the head of the writer. Utility and innocent entertainment are the sole designs of the Editor; and if they are accomplished, he is satisfied, and cheerfully falls back into the shade of obscurity. He is confident that the Book cannot but be useful and entertaining; but he is, at the same time, so little inclined to boast of his work, that he is ready to confess, that almost any man, willing to incur a considerable expence, and undergo a little trouble, might have furnished as good a collection,
As taste will for ever differ, fome may wish to have seen in it passages from 'some favourite, yet obscure poet, and fomnc allo from their own works; but it was the business of the Editor of a school-book like this, not to insert scarce and curious works, such as please virtuojo readers, chiefly from their rarity, but to collect such as were publicly known and univerfully ce'ebrated. The more known, the more celebrated, the better they were adapted 10 iliis Collection; which is not defigned, like the lessons of some dancing-masters, for grown gentlemen, but for young learners only; and it will readily occur to every one, that what is old to men and women, may be, and for the most part mufl be, New to loys and girls ricciving their education. Private judgment, in a work like this, most often give way to public. Some things are inierted in this Volume, entirely in subinitive deference to public opinion; which when general aud long continued,
is the least fallible test of merit in the fine arts, and particularly in Poetry. Whatever was found in previous collections, which experience had pronounced proper for schools, has been freely taken and admitted : the stamp of experience gave it currency. The freedom of borrowing, it is hoped, will be pardoned, as the collectors, with whom it has been used, first let the example of it.
It is unnecessary, and perhaps might be deemed impertinent, to point out the mode of using the Collection to the best advantage. It is evident that it may be used in schools, either in recitation, transcription, the exercise of the memory, or in imitation. It furnishes an abundance of models, which are the best means of exciting genius. Such Arts of Poetry as those of Gildon, Bysshe, Newbery, and their imitators, effect but little in the dry method of technical precept; and the young Poet, like the Sculptor, will improve most by working after a inodel. It is evident that this Collection may be usefully read at EngLISH SCHOOLS, in the classes, just as the Latin and Greek authors are read at the grammar-schools, by explaining every thing grainmatically, historically, metrically, and critically; and then giving a portion to be learned by memory. The Book, it is hoped, will be particularly agreeable and useful in the private Studies of the amiable young student, whose first love is the love of the Muse, and who courts her in his summer's walk, and his winter's folitude.
In the latter part many little pieces are admitted, mere lusus poetici, chiefly for the diversion of the student. They are, it must be confessed, no more than flowrets at the bottom of Parnassus; but it is hoped, that their adıission will be approved, as they may gradually lead the scholar to ascend higher up the hill, who might have been deterred from approaching it if he had seen nothing in the first prospect, but the sublime, the folemn, and the fombrous.
To every Edition a great variety of long and valuable Poems has been added, and the volume is consequentły mucb enlarged. A few pieces have been of neceffity omilted, the infertion of which would bave rendered the Book unwieldy. Their omision is amply fupplied by the copious addition of new Materials. If some mistakes have infinuated therjelves, in consequence of the Editor's disiance from the press, it is hoped they will be conjadered with candour.
The reader will have no cause to complain, if, instead of Extra75, he often finds whole poems infcrted. This has been done whenever it seemed confiftent with the design, and could be done without injustice. In this matter, the opinion of those who must be supposed best qualitied to give it, was asked, and foilowed. The wish was to take nothing but what seemed to lie on the common, relinquished or neglected by the lord of the manor.
Though the Book is divided into Four Parts, yet the formality of regular
Perhaps the reader will be the more inclined to extend it towards me, if I do
nothing of my own but the thread that ties them."