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Tyric and ballad poetry; all these fertile topics open up a copious source of knowledge and intellectual gratification to readers of different ages, and of every variety of taste. For these reasons the compiler has quoted largely from those delightful and improving departments of our poetical literature. "The great tendency of poetry," says Channing, in his masterly essay on Milton, "is, to carry the mind beyond and above the beaten, dusty, weary walks of ordinary life; to lift it into a purer element; and to breathe into it more profound and generous emotion. It reveals to us the loveliness of nature, brings back the freshness of youthful feeling, revives the relish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm which warmed the springtime of our being, strengthens our interests in human nature by vivid delineations of its tenderest and loftiest feelings, knits us by new ties with universal beings, and through the brightness of its prophetic visions, helps faith to lay hold on the future life."
Independently of the advantages arising from the study of poetry, to which reference has been made, its importance must not be overlooked as a means of strengthening the memory, of improving youth in the art of reading, and of qualifying them for a profitable study of their mother tongue. A few remarks on the method which, it is suggested, should be adopted by teachers in using this work, will exemplify the importance of learning to read and recite poetical composition with power and expression. To explain the different modes of reading applicable to the several kinds of poetry, does not come within the object of the present undertaking. It is sufficient to observe, that the art of reading poetry aloud and well, and with due regard to emphasis and intonation, is one of no ordinary difficulty; it demands careful and accurate instruction; it requires a diversity of qualifications, and the observance of a few general rules; it constitutes an essential branch of a good education; and yet it is too generally neglected, even in our best schools.
The following remarks are submitted for the guidance of those who are engaged in the office of tuition. It is
recommended that they should set apart a portion of time, at least of one day in each week, during the hours of ordinary instruction, for the reading of poetry. A particular lesson should be chosen alternately from one of the divisions. This should be first read by the teacher in a distinct tone of voice, and with appropriate emphasis and expression, before a class of his pupils. He should, at the same time, read a part of the biogra phical sketch of the author, from whose works the extract is taken, and of the introduction to the species of poetry to which the piece belongs. He should then explain the meaning of any allusions that may appear ambiguous; point out the words and passages of which the delivery should be peculiarly emphatic; and convey to the children, in simple and intelligible language, the meaning which the lesson is intended to convey, and the object sought to be accomplished by the writer. This may be followed up by a few leading questions on his history, as given in the volume of Biographical Sketches; his name; the date and place of his birth and death; his character; the most important events in his life; the titles of his principal productions; the department of poetry in which he was most distinguished; the names of the eminent writers who have criticised his works; the nature of the judgment they have pronounced upon their merits and defects; and the rank they have assigned to him amongst his brother poets. These interrogatories may be put by an intelligent teacher in the simplest language, and be made to embrace a wide circle of useful information, without occupying too much time. Each of the pupils should then be required to read, either the whole, or a portion of the piece, which has been previously explained by the teacher, and the class should be afterwards questioned on the several points embraced in his examination. Occasionally, short pieces should be committed to memory, and recited in presence of the entire school, not with the view of encouraging declamation in a theatrical style, which has an injurious tendency, but of cultivating a natural, easy, and correct delivery. A judicious and well-informed teacher will be also ena
fbled to render the reading lessons in poetry a valuable auxiliary, in communicating information to his scholars on the history and peculiarities of our language, and in instructing them how to parse, with facility and accuracy, the most intricate passages in the works of our poets. The suggestions here made, if improved upon, as experience and practice would point out, could scarcely fail to invigorate the intellectual faculties of the pupils, sharpen their critical perceptions, exercise their memories, improve their taste for reading, and call their moral powers into vigorous action.*
It may be said that many of the teachers are not qualified to adopt this minute and systematic course of instruction. It is to be feared that there are grounds for this apprehension. Under these circumstances, they are earnestly recommended to peruse, with attention, after School hours, the Biographical Sketches of the Poets, the Selections from their works, and the explanatory Introductions to the different species of poetry. They should also, occasionally, read poetry aloud in their private apartments. The work, as now prepared in three volumes, will, it is expected, be thought worthy of an attentive perusal in the closet, and in the society of family and friends. Mrs. Ellis, in the preface to her admirable selections, recently published, under the title of" The Young Ladies' Reader," has observed, that "it may seem but a little thing to speak of social reading in connexion with the patriot's love of home; but that cannot be a little thing which tends, however slightly, to the strengthening of family union, the harmonizing of kindred minds, and the supply of unfailing sources of refreshment and delight, in which the narrow views of self-interest have no part whatever." She adds :"When all the necessary requisites for a good reader are taken into account, we wonder not so much that this accomplishment is neglected, as that it does not constitute, with all who look upon education in its true
The "Suggestive Hints towards Improved Secular Instruction," by the Rev. Richard Dawes, A.M, contain some excellent practical instructions to teachers, on the best method of examining their pupils in the lessons on poetry. See pages 15 to 19 of that admirable work.
light, that of the formation of character, an important means of refining and elevating the mind, of culti vating the sympathies of our nature, and of improving those habits of perception and adaptation which are so valuable to all. We wonder, too, that it is not re garded as a means of introducing the young, harmlessly, and without danger, to a study of the humar heart, without some knowledge of which, the best in tentions are apt to fail in effect, and the noblest efforts to fall short of the good proposed."
With regard to the execution of this work, it may be truly affirmed, that it has been prepared with the most scrupulous care. In a few instances, verses and lines have been omitted, which appeared objectionable in sentiment or offensive to good taste. It is only neces sary to add, that the few Selections from our modern poets, of whose works the copyright may not have expired, have already been before the public in almost all the most popular of our school collections of poetry, some of them many years ago. It is presumed, therefore, that their re-appearance in the present volumes will not be detrimental, in any respect, to the interests of authors or publishers. On the contrary, it is to be hoped, that the perusal of these specimens will lead to a more extensive purchase of the numerous editions of our standard poets, which, happily for the mental improvement of the people, are now in course of publication, in a convenient form, and at a moderate price. The province of the compiler has been an humble one, though requiring some research, labour, taste, and judg ment. It will be to him a source of pride and satisfaction, if the object of the Commissioners of National Education, in granting him the privilege of preparing this work for the press, shall be fully accomplished; and if any one of his readers, after perusing it, shall be disposed to acknowledge, in the words of Coleridge:→
Poetry has been to me an exceeding great reward; it has soothed my affliction; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared my solitude; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the Good and the Beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me."