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The material in this volume originally appeared in The Bookman, 1917–1918. It is now published with much addition and revision.
The Great War has had a stimulating effect on the production of poetry. Professional poets have been spokesmen for the inarticulate, and a host of hitherto unknown writers have acquired reputation. An immense amount of verse has been written by soldiers in active service. The Allies are fighting for human liberty, and this Idea is an inspiration. It is comforting to know that some who have made the supreme sacrifice will be remembered through their printed poems, and it is a pleasure to aid in giving them public recognition.
Furthermore, the war, undertaken by Germany to dominate the world by crushing the power of Great Britain, has united all English-speaking people as nothing else could have done. In this book, all poetry written in the English language is considered as belonging to English literature.
It should be apparent that I am not a sectarian in art, but am thankful for poetry wherever I find it. I have endeavored to make clear the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual significance of many of
our contemporary English-writing poets. The difficulties of such an undertaking are obvious; but there are two standards of measure. One is the literature of the past, the other is the life of today. I judge every new poet by these two tests. The fashion in poetry is always swinging from Spenser to Donne, and back again; from Tennyson to Thompson, and back again. At this moment the influence of John Donne is wider than at any time since the mid-seventeenth century. Our latest extras in flesh and spirit can hardly surpass his candour or his ecstasy. Meanwhile, amid the winds of doctrine and the gusts of sentiment, the old tunes are heard. With reference to the life and thought of today, many of our poets may be called reflectors and interpreters.
I have given some biographical detail, because it is important and not always easy to find.
W. L. P. Yale University,
Tuesday, 4 June 1918.