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PRE FAC E.
HE charms of Poetry have been felt by mankind in all ages. So highly were the ancients enamoured of this art, that with them the Poet was a facred character; and they spake of the Mufes as the offspring of Jupiter himself.
And as the pleasure derived from Poetry is founded on that fenfe of fublimity, beauty, and harmony, which is natural to the mind of man, it will always meet with admirers, while, in the words of one of the elegant authors of The Guardian, it can meet with " a heart tender and generous, a heart that can fwell with the joys, or be depreffed with "the misfortunes of others; a heart large enough to receive the greatest ideas nature can fuggeft, and delicate enough to relish the "most beautiful; that is capable of entering into all thofe fubtle graces, and all that divine elegance, the enjoyment of which is to be "felt only, and not expreffed."
To young minds efpecially, whofe fufceptibility is not destroyed, and who are alive to the pleafing impreffions of nature and fancy, it yields a charming repast, while (to cite the fame author again) "it leads them through flowery meadows or beautiful gardens, refreshes them with "cooling breezes or delicious fruits, foothes them with the murmur of "waters or the melody of birds; or elfe conveys them to the court and camp, dazzles their imagination with crowns and fceptres, embattled hofts, or heroes fhining in burnished fteel."
It would, therefore, be allowable to encourage a taste for Poetry in young perfons, were it only capable of affording them thefe innocent delights.
But Poetry may be fuccefsfully employed as the vehicle of inftruction, as well as pleasure.
From the earliest periods its language has been made use of, not only in defcribing the beauties of nature, the pleasures of innocence, and the emotions of love, but in exciting to virtuous and heroic actions, and in conveying historical, political, and religious inftruction. And it has often been found a fuccefsful inftrument in fixing impreffions on young minds, when precepts dreffed in a lefs alluring form could not engage
It is to an acquaintance with the Mufes, likewife, that most of those characters who have attained to any confiderable eminence in polite literature, have acknowledged themselves chiefly indebted for the graces and recommendations of fine writing; for liveliness and ftrength of
imagination, variety and force of language, as well as the nobleft fentiments and reflections.
The defign of the prefent compilation is, to fupply young perfor.s, in the courfe of a school education, with a greater variety of English poetry than has ever yet been published in one volume, and at an expence that is comparatively trifling and inconfiderable.
The poets from whofe works the extracts have been taken are, many of them, the most celebrated which this country has produced; and others fuftain no mean rank in the lifts of fame. In borrowing from them, the fame freedom is used as has been obferved in former collections and in many inftances, where the plan would admit of it, fuch poems as have received the ftamp of univerfal approbation are inferted entire.
Particular care has at the fame time been taken, to admit of nothing into this collection but what is calculated for improvement, or for innocent recreation. As the bees, to borrow a comparison from St. Bafil, do not dwell upon every fort of flowers, and even from thofe they fix upon draw only what is of fervice for the compofition of their precious liquid, the Editor has endeavoured to follow their example: and as in gathering rofes we take care to avoid the thorns, he has been careful to gather only, from the authors to whofe works he has had recourfe, what may be useful and entertaining, without touching any thing that is pernicious.
The firft book is compofed of pieces on facred and moral fubjects: the fecond, of didactic, defcriptive, narrative, and pathetic pieces.
The third book contains extracts from our beft dramatic writers, and particularly Shakspeare, of whofe works the laft edition, by Mr. Malone, has been closely followed.
To the fourth book, which is epic and mifcellaneous, the works of Spenfer, Milton, and Pope have largely contributed.
The fifth book counts principally of ludicrous poems, epigrams, fongs, ballads, prologues, epilogues, and various other little pieces intended for amufement and diverfion.
As fuch a great variety has unavoidably fwelled this work to a very confiderable fize, it has been thought proper, in the fame manner as in the EXTRACTS in PROSE, to infert a new title page nearly in the middle, that it may be bound in one, or in two volumes, according to the wifh of the purchafers.