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has sometimes destroyed the spontaneity of the earlier work.
The spelling has been modernized throughout, as there seemed no reason to preserve an archaism not intended by the poet; and such eccentricities of spelling as various writers affected have been made to conform to the accepted American usage. The numbering of stanzas has been omitted as unnecessary and cumbersome. In every case where a short poem has been taken from a longer one, a line has been added to indicate its source, and where the author himself did not supply a title for his poem, the present editor has usually preferred to quote the first line as the title, rather than use a title invented by someone else. In the old ballads, a modern version has been used in preference to the earliest one, which would be unintelligible to many readers; and the use of the apostrophe to indicate an imaginary shortening of a syllable has been done away with. As a matter of fact, there is, for example, no real difference between the pronunciation of "kiss'd,” “kist" and "kissed," and so no reason why the regular spelling should not be used.
The classification used in this volume has been made to fit the poems, and not the poems the classification. In other words, with the exception of some of the children's verse, the work of selection was completed before that of classification was begun. The compiler can claim for it no fundamental originality, since most poetry falls into certain well-recognized classes; but he has tried to make it more searching and exhaustive than is usually attempted. He has tried, for instance, to group the poems dealing with the emotions not only by meaning, but by shades of meaning, so that one poem would seem naturally to suggest the next. This has, of course, been a task too fine for accomplishment with anything like complete success; but, as he has looked through the final proofs, he has been conscious of at least a few happy juxtapositions.
Classification is a nerve-racking task, and, even at the best, must sometimes be purely arbitrary; as, for example,
where the present compiler has placed his selection from Meredith's "Modern Love" under "Love Sonnets." For Meredith's stanzas are not sonnets at all, since they consist of sixteen lines each; and yet they have essentially a sonnet effect, and their place seemed to be with the other famous sequences. Then, too, there are many poems which may equally well be placed under various headings, so that it was, more or less, an arbitrary decision which placed "The Courtin'" under "The Comedy of Love" rather than with the humorous poems, and "Kathleen Mavourneen" under "The Parted Lovers" rather than "At Her Window."
And, however complete the classification may be, the anthologist must inevitably, at the end, find himself with a number of poems on his hands which belong distinctly nowhere, and which must yet go somewhere. It has been rather the fashion to solve the difficulty by putting them anywhere; but the present compiler has chosen, rather than break the continuity of arrangement, to set up, in one section of Part VI, a sort of scrap-bag in which these odds and ends are assembled.
Where every collection such as this must fail of complete success, as representing the whole field of English poetry, is that it exalts the writers of brief lyrics at the expense of the writers of long odes and epics and narrative poems. Such poets as Milton, Pope and Collins do not loom as large in these pages as their stature merits; to attempt to represent Shakespeare by a few of his songs and sonnets, or Swift by an epigram, is manifestly absurd; so that this collection can claim to be adequate only as a representation of English lyric poetry. That, it is hoped, it will be found to besomething more than that, indeed, since many of the more famous longer poems are also included; and it should be valuable, too, as bringing together in one index a wide range of verse not to be found in the average private library.
In closing this resumé of a task which has occupied some three years in the doing, the compiler wishes to acknowledge his deep indebtedness for many kindnesses to the living writers whose work is represented here. They have been
uniformly helpful and obliging; not only have they cordially assented to this use of their poems, but they have made suggestions, have revised copy and have read proofs. Their sympathy and interest have been never-failing, and it was very largely their enthusiasm and encouragement which enabled the compiler to carry through to completion a task before which he faltered more than once. To them and to their predecessors in the field of English song belong whatever honor and glory it may bring; for, to paraphrase Montaigne, the compiler has contributed to this nosegay nothing but the thread which binds it; theirs is its perfume and its beauty.
B. E. S.