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The purpose of this Collection is to put before children, and THE young people, poems which are good in themselves, and especially fitted to live, as Theocritus says, “on the lips of the young.' The Editor has bben guided to a great extent, in making his choice, by recóllections of what particularly pleased himself in youth. As a rule, the beginner in poetry likes what is called objective 'art—verse with a story in it, the more vigorous the story the better. The old ballads satisfy this taste, and the Editor would gladly have added more of them, but for two reasons. First, there are parents who would see harm, where children see none, in Tamlane' and • Clerk Saunders.' Next, there was reason to dread that the volume might become entirely too Scottish. It is certainly a curious thing that, in Mr. Palgrave's Golden Treasury, where some seventy poets are represented, scarcely more than a tenth of the number were born north of Tweed. In this book, however, intended for lads and lassies, the poems by Campbell, by Sir Walter Scott, by Burns, by the Scottish song-writers, and the Scottish minstrels of the ballad, are in an unexpectedly large proportion to the poems by English authors. The Editor believes that this predominance of Northern verse is not due to any exorbitant local patriotism of his own. The singers of the North, for some reason or other, do excel in poems of action and of adventure, or to him they seem to excel. He is acquainted with no modern ballad by a Southern Englishman, setting aside · Christabel’ and the · Ancient Marinerpoems hardly to be called ballads—which equals. The Eve of
St. John.' For spirit-stirring martial strains few Englishmen since Drayton have been rivals of Campbell, of Scott, of Burns, of Hogg with his song of `Donald McDonald.' Two names, indeed, might be mentioned here : the names of the late Sir Francis Doyle and of Lord Tennyson. But the scheme of this book excludes a choice from contemporary poets. It is not necessary to dwell on the reasons for this decision. But the Editor believes that some anthologist of the future will find in the poetry of living English authors, or of English authors recently dead, a very considerable garden of that kind of verse which is good both for young and old. To think for a moment of this abundance is to conceive more highly of Victorian poetry. There must still, after all, be youth and mettle in the nation which could produce . The Ballad of the Revenge,' 'Lucknow,' • The Red Thread of Honour, The Loss of the Birkenhead,' •The Forsaken Merman,' 'How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,' The Pied Piper of Hamelin,' and many a song of Charles Kingley's, not to mention here the work of still later authors. But we only glean the fields of men long dead.
For this reason, then-namely, because certain admirable contemporary poems, like Lucknow' and The Red Thread of Honour,' are unavoidably excluded—the poems of action, of war, of adventure, chance to be mainly from Scottish hands. Thus Campbell and Scott may seem to hold a preeminence which would not have been so marked had the works of living poets, or of poets recently dead, been available. Yet in any circumstances these authors must have occupied a great deal of the field : Campbell for the vigour which the unfriendly Leyden had to recognise ; Scott for that Homeric quality which, since Homer, no man has displayed in the same degree. Extracts from his long poems do not come within the scope of this selection. But, estimated even by his lyrics, Scott seems, to the Editor, to justify his right, now occasionally disdained, to rank among the great poets of his country. He has music, speed, and gaiety, as in “The Hunting Song'or in Nora's Vow:'
For all the gold, for all the gear,
I would not wed the Earlie's son ! Lines like these sing themselves naturally in a child's memory, while there is a woodland freshness and a daring note in
O, Brignall banks are wild and fair,
And Greta woods are green. Young Lochinvar' goes' as dauntingly as wantonly' to his bridal, as the heir of Macpherson’s Rant to his death, in a wonderful swing and gallop of verse; while still, out of dim years of childhood far away, one hears how all the bells are ringing in Dunfermline town for the wedding of Alice Brand. From childhood, too, one remembers the quietism of Lucy Ashton's song, and the monotone of the measure
Vacant heart and hand and eye,
Easy live and quiet die. The wisdom of it is as perceptible to a child as that other lesson of Scott's, which rings like a clarion :
To all the sensual world proclaim
Is worth an age without a name. Then there are his martial pieces, as the Gathering Song of Donald Dhu'and. The Cavalier,' and there is the inimit. able simplicity and sadness of Proud Maisie,' like the dirge for Clearista by Meleager, but with a deeper tone, a stronger magic; and there is the song, which the Fates might sing in a Greek chorus, the song which Meg Merrilies sang,
Twist ye, twine ye, even so ! These are but a few examples of Scott's variety, his spontaneity, his hardly conscious mastery of his art. Like Phemius of Ithaca, he might say “none has taught me but myself, and the God has put into my heart all manner of lays '---all but the conscious and elaborate manner of lays,'
which has now such power over some young critics that they talk of Scott's redeeming his bad verse by his good novels. The taste of childhood and of maturity is simpler and more pure.
In the development of a love of poetry it is probable that simple, natural, and adventurous poetry like Scott's comes first, and that it is followed later-followed but not superseded --by admiration of such reflective poetry as is plain and even obvious, like that of Longfellow, from whom a number of examples are given. But, to the Editor at least, it seems that a child who cares for poetry is hardly ever too young to delight in mere beauty of words, in the music of metre and rhyme, even when the meaning is perhaps still obscure and little considered. A child, one is convinced, would take great pleasure in Mr. Swinburne's choruses in • Atalanta,' such as
Before the beginning of years, and in Shelley's Cloud' and his · Arethusa.' For this reason a number of pieces of Edgar Poe's are given, and we have not shrunk even from including the faulty . Ulalume, because of the mere sound of it, apart from the sense. The three most famous poems of Coleridge may be above a child's full comprehension, but they lead him into a world not realised, 'an unsubstantial fairy place,' bright in a morning mist, like our memories of childhood.
It is probably later, in most lives, that the mind wakens to delight in the less obvious magic of style, and the less ringing, the more intimate melody of poets like Keats and Lord Tennyson. The songs of Shakespeare, of course, are for all ages, and the needs of youth comparatively mature are met in Dryden's · Ode on Alexander's Feast, and in • Lycidas' and the · Hymn for the Nativity.'
It does not appear to the Editor that poems about children, or especially intended for children, are those which a child likes best. A child's imaginative life is much spent in the unknown future, and in the romantic past. He is the contemporary of Leonidas, of Agincourt, of Bannockburn, of the