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THE NEW YORK
UNIVERSITY Press: Welch, BIGELOW, & Co.,
would be doing injustice to the compiler of this volume to suppose
that his work implied any lack of appreciation of the excellent anthologies already published in this country. Dana's “Household Book of Poetry” is no misnomer ; and the honored names of Bryant and Emerson are a sufficient guaranty for “Parnassus” and the “Library of Song.” With no thought of superseding or even of entering into direct competition with these large and valuable collections, it has been my design to gather up in a comparatively small volume, easily accessible to all classes of readers, the wisest thoughts, rarest fancies, and devoutest hymns of the metrical authors of the last three centuries. To use Shelley's definition of poetry, I have endeavored to give something like “a record of the best thoughts and happiest moments of the best and happiest minds.” The plan of my work has compelled me to confine myself, in a great measure, to the lyrical productions of the authors quoted, and to use only the briefer poems of the old dramatists and such voluminous writers as Spenser, Milton, Dryden, Cowper, Pope, Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, and the Brownings. Of course, no anthology, however ample its extracts, could do justice to the illimitable genius of Shakespeare.
It is possible that it may be thought an undue prominence has been given to the poetry of the period beginning with Cowper and reaching down to Tennyson and his living contemporaries. But it must be considered that the last century has been prolific in song; and, if Shakespeare and Milton still keep their unapproachable position, “ souls like stars that dwell apart," there can be little doubt that the critical essayist of the twentieth century will make a large advance upon the present estimate, not only of Cowper and Burns, but of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Browning, Tennyson, and Emerson.
It will be seen that the middle of the sixteenth century is the earliest date of my citations. The great name of Chaucer does not appear; and some of the best of the early ballad poetry of England and Scotland has been reluc