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In compiling this volume it has been my object to gather together what are at once Gems as poetry, and more than unexceptionable as regards religious and moral sentiment. This may account for the absence of some poems that might perhaps be expected in a work of this kind. For, on the one hand, anything which, however perfect as a piece of art, does not allow the purest Christian light to pass through it undimmed, has been rigidly excluded ; and, on the other, nothing has been inserted simply on account of its devotional character. The glory of God, the love of nature and of country, and the beauty and sanctity of home-life, --such are the themes most profusely illustrated in these pages. The selection, therefore, is one eminently fittedif my endeavours have been successful—to gratify and elevate the taste of the young.
“The power of English literature is in its poets," says a critic now held in considerable honour ;* and from a field so passingly rich as the poetry of England, it is not a very light task to gather what shall be universally recognised as its brightest flowers. Tastes differ, proverbially; differ as regards the merit and importance of individual poets ; differ, moreover, as regards the value of the several passages of their works. I scarcely, therefore, flatter myself that I shall equally please all those of my readers who have previously taken a strong interest in the subject. I shall not complain if here and there they would substitute some old favourite for the specimen-verse I have chosen, but shall rest content with their general approval.
There is one point, however, on which I must guard against misconception. My constant desire has been that every poet of mark, who has used the English language as his instrument, should be represented by his best and most distinctive compositions. But in respect of our contemporaries a difficulty has met me; and if some few of the greater modern names are “conspicuous by their absence," or, as in the case of Thomas Hood, inadequately represented, it must be understood that the owners of the copyrights did not think it desirable to sanction my republishing poems in which they had an interest. In other cases this
* “Essays in Criticism,” by Matthew Arnold.
sanction has been very kindly afforded me; and I have to thank several publishers and authors, not only for allowing me the use of their property, but also for the extreme courtesy I have met with at their hands. My very grateful acknowledgments are here tendered to several of the “Living Poets ;" and to Messrs. Longman for extracts from Southey, Moore, and Lord Macaulay; to John Murray, Esq.from Bishop Heber and Dean Milman ; to Messrs. Chapman and Hall—from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, and Henry Taylor; to Messrs. Macmillanfrom the Rev. Charles Kingsley and Coventry Patmore; to Messrs. Nisbet and Co.from the Rev. H. Bonar; to Messrs. Edmonston and Douglas—from Professor Wilson; and to Mr. Bennett - from Mrs. Howitt.
M. A. M.