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April 6th, 1879. . . . I am glad to hear that your boys and girls take so much interest in poetry. That is a good sign, for poetry is the flower and perfume of thought, and a perpetual delight, clothing the commonplace of life with golden exhalations of the dawn.'
H. W. Longfellow. (see page 14.)
TRUTH cut on high in tablets of hewn stone,
Pass'd by and scorn'd;
So, many an hour, I sit and carve my gems,
Edward Rowland Sill.
Poetry has been to me 'its own exceeding great reward ;' it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude; and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.
S. T. Coleridge. (See page 48.)
The historian who shall weave into a continuous whole the multitudinous fibres which go to form the curious fabric of nineteenth-century society, and shall desire to mark our progress since
“The spacious times of great Elizabeth,” will find it necessary to the completion of his task duly to recognize the relative importance of the thread of poetry in the tissue of life.
It is true that the present has been characterized as an age innocent hitherto of a great poet,—that is, of a poet worthy to sit in the seat of Shakspere, of Milton, of Shelley, or of Keats. It is alleged that there is more of polish than of passionmore of labour than of inspiration in the work of the poets of the present generation; and no doubt such a predominance must fail to produce the sacred singer who shall sit enthroned for ever in the hearts of men and women. But, even if we feel bound to admit this, it must yet be conceded that the days of a later Elizabeth have been graced with much delicate work. manship in poetry, and by many poetical gems of exquisite polish and sparkle. Moreover it is certain that there is amongst us an ever-increasing demand, clamorous for poetry, and not to be satisfied with mere verses and metrical exercises. For our part, we believe this demand to be the inevitable reaction from a spirit of worldly utilitarianism, which, heedless of the highest utility, is surely pressing its way into the inner thought of the nation, and threatens to overwhelm with an army of
facts and useful information' all the generous impulses and elevating aspirations of the enthusiasm which lends to life its zest and glory, and has prompted 'every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world.'
It is not to children that we speak of the world-contest in which poetry and the lower utilitarianism are ranked on opposite sides; but we desire to guard them from the first insidious approaches of the enemy, and to arm them for manly combat when the business of life shall call upon them to meet him.
With this object in view we have tried to bring together a few such poems and songs as may be helpful to awaken and strengthen in children the love of poetry for its own sake, and to inspire them with a desire to gather for themselves in the spacious harvest-fields of which these are but gleanings. Such poems have been chosen as appeal at once to the tastes and sympathies of young people, not merely by congeniality of subject, but by the swing and beat of strongly marked rhythm and closing cadence of rhyme. These elements are always attractive to children: even in the nursery the most popular ditties are those which abound in rippling numbers and musical ring : and the very sing-song, with which a child repeats a poetry-lesson whose meaning it has not fully mastered, bears witness at least to an appreciation and enjoyment of metrical form. Thus ar. resting a child's attention and charming his fancy, these features of poetry will be found wonderful aids to memory : moreover, though they be but ornaments in the mere clothing of thought. they are frequently full of a suggestiveness that fertilizes the imagination.
That a poem should be somewhat above full comprehension by a child does not appear to us to constitute any real objection to making it a lesson, provided there be something about it which he may understand or like, and use as a starting point for further exploration. Indeed we hold that to be a more profitable object of study which is constantly developing new beauties and meanings, than that which discovers its whole intention at once. and has no further lesson to teach-no further delight to reveal.
These remarks will explain why little of the 'blood-and. battle' type of poetry is to be found here. Stirring and forcible though such poems may be, and of special value as reading and elocution lessons, they yet lack, for the most part, that power of growth of which we have spoken, and which is at once the mark and the glory of the highest poetry.
Connected with the love of children for musical rhythm and rhyme, are the reasons which have excluded any appreciable amount of blank verse from this collection, Delight in the heroic metre, with its majestic roll and its full assonance, comes later in life. We hope these songs may linger in many a student's mind, and that deeper meanings and higher messages in their remembered music may be revealed to him by the years which add to his knowledge of human life, and his power to sympathize with sorrow and with joy. And in the times of trouble, that come to all alike, may he find in poetry as sweet a solace as many have found before him, and realize in his own experience that
“Such songs have power to quiet the restless pulse of care.
Larcom, Lucy............ 76, 155
[29, 36, 37, 38, 112
Lover, Samuel .............. 141
Lytton R. (Lord).. 23, 24, 143, 160
Procter, Bryan Waller .... 77, 83
Poe, Edgar Allan .......... 146
Saxe, John Godfrey ........ 179
Scott, Walter (Sir) ...... 72, 175
Shenstone, William .......... 124
Shirley, James................ 12
Trowbridge, John Townsend.. 131
Whittier, John Greenleaf .... 153
Willis, Nathaniel Parker 44, 58, 140
Wolfe, Charles .............. 177