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RELIGIOUS poetry is the holy of holies of literature. In all ages poets have been the interpreters of the finer feelings of humanity, and the greatest have treated the loftiest themes that can employ the mind and the heart, — the relation of man to his Maker, and the duties and privileges which arise from it.
It has been the aim of the editors to make the present collection truly catholic. It embraces a body of representative poems of all ages, denominations, and countries. The authors are allowed the fullest liberty of uttering their sentiments in their own words.
While there are specimens of the poetry of almost all the masters of English composition, the minor poets have not been forgotten, nor has veneration for antiquity kept the editors from giving attention to the latest born of the great family of singers.
The editors have not relied upon their general acquaintance with the subject, but have made extensive studies throughout the entire range of the literature. They have had the valuable aid, also, of special students and of persons of cultivated taste, who have given much thought to many of the selections here presented from their favorite writers.
The arrangement will be found natural and convenient. The poet's personality has been kept prominent, for the words are his, though expressing the feelings of all. We have endeavored to make a book which the reader can take up in every frame of mind; which will inspire noble thoughts and deeds; which will comfort and cheer the lonely mourner ; which the mother will read to her daughter, the father to his son ; a book which the young and old will take pleasure in consulting whenever they desire communion with pure and noble minds, and the help that comes from contemplation of the better things of this world and the blessedness of the world to come.
Thanks are due to the living authors who have, without exception, cheerfully given permission to use their poems, as well as to the publishers controlling copyrights. Among the latter are Messrs. C. Kegan Paul and Company, publishers of Mr. Tennyson's works; Messrs. Longmans, Green, and Company, publishers of the valuable translations from the German made by Miss Winkworth ; and Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, who have permitted the use of the poems of Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Holmes, and other poets. Some of the poets — including Dr. Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, Cardinal Newman, Bishop Coxe, and “the Author of John Halifax” — have kindly revised their poems submitted to them in proof. Some variations from the familiar text are due to this fact.