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form, travels, &c. until, at a maturer age, it is able to select for itself. But there is a wide gap between the nursery rhymes which delighted the child, and the first book of poetry usually placed in its hands. A child cannot select for itself, and few will toil through a number of the poems contained in most selections, which, however beautiful, are as much beyond the child's comprehension as a work of high art by an old master.
Sometimes this missing link is supplied by the mind and memory of the mother, who discovers, partly by experience, partly by instinct, what will attract and please her children, who early learn to delight in hearing their favourite passages repeated; and it is hoped that the present selection will be welcomed by such mothers, as it will save them the continual labour of looking in many different volumes for the few pieces which their children can understand and like ; and also by the many children whose mothers have neither inclination nor leisure to undertake the work of selection for them.
Two things are essentially required in poetry for children --action and incident, to attract and keep alive their attention, and simplicity and power of language. Let any one analyse their earliest feelings of pleasure as derived from poetry, and say whether they found most enjoyment in the most beautiful pieces of descriptive poetry, or in such as the “ Death of Marmion,” the “Combat of Fitz-James and Roderick Dhu," the “ Burial of Sir John Moore," and many old ballads.
Poetry and painting are sister arts, and the cultivation of the two is subject to the same rules. As in training the hand and eye to drawing, the master begins by placing before his pupil sketches of the simplest. description, but in which each line and touch is bold, marked, and expressive ; so in poetry, the mind must first be familiarised with works whose beauty depends upon simple but clear and powerful touches, before it can take in and enjoy those more delicate shades from which, possibly, the principal enjoyment will hereafter be derived.
Almost all poetry, however generally admired, which requires a cultivated taste to appreciate it, or whose beauty depends upon richness or redundancy of poetical imagery, is therefore omitted in the present collection, and in most cases, such poems only are included as are calculated to attract and delight children, and to afford them equal pleasure when grown up.
Such are many
of the smaller poems of our best poets, and also many old English and German ballads; perhaps, indeed, few poems combine to the same extent vigorous action, and a wild grotesqueness, irresistibly attractive to children, with simplicity of language, as the latter; and if these should seem to bear an undue proportion to the rest, it is to be attributed to the fact that the compiler of the present selection spent many happy years of childhood in Germany (and thereby acquired a personal experience of the pleasure which most children derive from them), and to her desire to extend the same pleasure to others.
From the preceding remarks, the principles to which the compiler has sought to adhere in forming this collection will be readily understood; and while feeling strongly the difficulty of selecting, and the impossibility both of including all she might wish, and of choosing only such as may be universally approved, she has undertaken the task with more confidence than she would bave ventured to feel had she been less intimately acquainted with the ways and wants of children, and their likings and dislikings.
Some of the existing selections for children have rather aimed at including one or two specimens from
every poet of eminence, than at meeting the peculiar wants of a child's mind; others have either contained a large number of nursery rhymes or of hymns. So far as the compiler is aware, there is not a single selection, limited to such pieces of good poetry as are likely to attract children in “playtime,” except those compiled by men; and though this latter circumstance may be an advantage to the general reader, still, when a selection is to be made for children, the knowledge of their tastes and capabilities, which few except mothers have time or patience to acquire, is a material qualification for the task.
The best thanks of the compiler are due to Messrs. Murray and Blackwood, by whose permission poems of Lord Byron and Mrs. Hemans are inserted, as well as to the many living poets who have kindly allowed her to include copyright pieces.