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form. My sister, far removed from me as the crow flies, but near in sentiment and appreciation of the songs that "quiet the restless pulse of care," offered the use of her contemporaneous collection for the work. To her I am indebted for some eighty of the more truly poetical pieces included in this volume. Two friends in Chicago placed their collections at my disposal, from which I was able to add some twoscore poems to my store. These independent sources served a further purpose to establish the character and fairly exhaustive scope of my own collection.
Then came the difficult task of selection. My scraps bore no patent of nobility, no royal stamp to show they came from the mint of poetic inspiration. Hundreds of them were without a sign to afford a clew to their parentage. Where the estimate of time, popular favor, and literary criticism has served as a guide-post to other collectors, the very nature of this collection denied it to me; therefore I have been forced to fix an arbitrary standard of my own by which every separate piece was judged. The invariable question has been, "Does this poem or narrative in verse contain anything worth rescuing from oblivion?" Under this rule it will readily be perceived I could not exact anything like the approach to perfection demanded in a collection making claim to represent the best specimens of English verse. I could not require that each piece should contain what was best worth preserving, but only that it should contain something worth preserving at all. The latitude admitted by such a principle of selection will account for the unevenness of this collection as a whole. Some of the pieces are full-fledged poems, complete in form, spirit, and finish, and undoubtedly deserve to rank higher up than in The Humbler Poets. Some are mere snatches of song and story "wedded to rhyme," while others are little more than suggestions of beautiful ideas struggling through halting metre and homely jingles. Several are only the rude setting for one or two good lines or happy thoughts. Some of these hedgerow poems contain the germ for others by master hands. Who now can say that Longfellow did not borrow the thought even some of the very words—for his description of the baby, in The
Hanging of the Crane, from as lowly a source as My Lost Baby, page 47, when he wrote,
"He ruleth by the right divine
Of helplessness, so lately born
It may be asked upon what principle I have drawn the line of exclusion from this volume. My answer is that it has been drawn almost arbitrarily along the line of the collected works of the Lesser Poets, -as Bret Harte, R. H. Stoddard, Helen Hunt Jackson, Celia Thaxter, Austin Dobson, Frederick Locker, W. W. Story, R. W. Gilder, Mary Mapes Dodge, Theodore Tilton, Joaquin Miller, Louisa M. Alcott, Elizabeth Akers Allen, Paul H. Hayne, William Winter, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Benjamin F. Taylor, Lucy Larcom, Ella Wheeler, Louise Chandler Moulton, Dinah Mulock Craik, H. C. Bunner, Mary Clemmer, T. B. Aldrich, J. T. Fields, and others, may without offence be called. It is possible, and even probable, that this volume may contain some fugitives from between the covers of the works of these contributors to the periodical poetry of the day, or even from higher sources. But I have taken what the lawyers would call the reasonable care of a reasonable man to reduce the chances of such a fault. The range of poetry in the English tongue is now so vast as to put it beyond the study of a lifetime to possess the memory of everything in it.
That my rule has not been lived up to in one or two instances will find excuse, I trust, in the character of the pieces in whose favor the exceptions have been made. The selections credited to Francis W. Bourdillon are notable instances where I have let down the fence to admit poetry that found its way into my scrap-books before the author thought to call it within an enclosure of his own.
Less than twenty selections found in the numerous standard collections, which have been consulted industriously, have been retained in this. No apology seems necessary for the retention of The Burial of Moses, Tired Mothers, The Blue and the Gray, Our Last Toast, Light, and The King's Picture. They fall naturally into the
companionship of this volume, and are not generally accessible to a large body of readers of poetry. Rain on the Roof is included for the reason assigned in an accompanying note. The Water-Mill has been a fugitive without a father so long, that this opportunity was taken to name its author. William Cullen Bryant had the courage to give the Beautiful Snow a place in his Library of Poetry and Song, although denied sanctuary by Dana and other editors. As it appears in this volume the last verse has been restored. Some readers may be interested in comparing it with the Beautiful Snow written by Major Sigourney, who was long credited with the authorship of the more famous poem.
As the reader comes to the end of poem after poem in this collection well worthy the pen of a master, but without a sign to show whence it came, he must remark the result of one of the most inexcusable faults of modern journalism. Some newspapers make it a rule not to publish the names of their own writers who contribute poetry, while others systematically reprint verses with only the name of the publication from which they are clipped, ignoring the signature appended to the original verse. From the blank spaces at the foot of the unclaimed poems in this volume there rises an appeal to the publishers of newspapers to do a small justice to the minor poets of the English tongue. It says with irresistible logic, "If a poem is worth publishing at all, its author is worthy of recognition."
Little more remains to be said.
It is not pretended that all the selections herein were written within the years mentioned on the titlepage. Indeed, some of them are "old vagrants," and the date of many more it is impossible to fix, for newspaper poetry travels in cycles, the same piece turning up in the same Poet's Corner" about once in seven years. Unlike standard collections from the best authors, this volume contains a very small percentage of poems to be found elsewhere. It preserves many that would otherwise have perished by the wayside, — lost for want of a collector. It is sui generis. Perhaps it may inspire future editions to which a more exacting standard of excellence can be applied. If in its pages there is shown the possession of a dis
criminating judgment regarding the treasures "more golden than gold," irrespective of their lowly source, let it be attributed to an early study of Mr. Francis Turner Palgrave's Golden Treasury, which I regret to say some ill-equipped editor has attempted to gild with modern alloy.
If the pleasure I have taken in collecting my scraps here, there, and everywhere, and the labor I have bestowed in bringing them within the compass of this volume, the doubting judgment respecting some and the regret of rejecting others, if this shall be the means of preserving many of the better fugitive verses of the period; if to any man or woman, youth or maiden, it shall give a worthy book to take from the shelf when the tasks for the day are all done; if any shall find herein some familiar but mislaid verse; if its pages shall recall forgotten scenes to some and whisper in the ear of "uneventful toil" some strains of the music that is everywhere; if its leaves shall bring a balm of hope, encouragement, and sweet content to some despondent heart; if its final moral shall teach some frail and weary wight that love, truth, and mirth are unfailing comforters, comrades, friends, I shall be satisfied.
CHICAGO, October, 1885.