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Dryden, Pope, Southey, Wordsworth, Scott, whose vast range of theme would require an immensely larger space for their adequate illustration.
The selection of passages has been governed by the consideration that these should not merely exemplify an author's style, but furnish opportunities of prelection on the peculiarities of the language and ornaments of poetry, and on the coincidences or contrasts exhibited in the evolution of similar images, thoughts, sentiments, and emotions, by different writers. Careful attention has also been devoted in many of the selections to what has been termed "elocutionary value;" and, accordingly, the dramatic passages, and those from many of the writers of the last two centuries, will be found to furnish ample subjects of exercise in graceful or impassioned elocution. With a further view to this object, a few, chiefly lighter pieces, have been appended at the conclusion, from authors whose names have not been comprehended in the line of extracts.
Had the ancient spelling been uniform and consistent, it might have been advisable to adopt it in the selections from the early poets; but it is well known that the old orthography was almost without rule; and not only is it various in different writers, but the same writer is not always consistent with himself: the ancient spelling is thus rendered nearly valueless; it has, therefore, been thought preferable to modernise the orthography of the earlier writers, except when old forms are required by the versification; the original spelling of a few words has also been retained, partly to preserve the antique aspect of the pieces, and partly to illustrate the principles of the changes to modern orthography.
In the older Scottish extracts, English forms have been given to some of the words; but, in general, the Scottish
shape has been preserved, for the sake of illustrating the differences and accordances in the two languages.
The manner of reading the poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries has been a subject of dispute. On the one side, it is alleged that the verse of that period should be read metrically in syllabic feet, to preserve anything like harmony; on the other, it is asserted that Chaucer's lines are rhythmical, producing harmony by pauses and accents, however few or however numerous may be the syllables. In the extracts the syllabic system has been in general adopted, as more in accordance with the received systems of versification. The letters formerly sounded, which are now either silent or abandoned, are generally marked by', as longé, spicéd, and accented syllables, where the ancient and modern accents differ, by, as tidings, tempèstis. Many words, being French, were accented in the French manner, as mirròur, entrèes, aventùre, etc.; now, mìrror, èntries, adventure, etc. It must be confessed that the rhythmical theory frequently improves the verse, and takes off an aspect of ludicrousness; as,
The sharp, green, | sweet | | juniper |
The sharp é, green | é, sweet | é, ju | niper |
This Italian opening of the é was occasionally employed much later; it is found in Shakespeare, and in the word "commandéments," in the Scottish version of the Psalms.
The Compiler's aim, in the annotations, is simply to exemplify and suggest lines of examination which he believes to be useful in education. The notes consist chiefly of etymological hints and notices of the principles of alteration in the forms of words in the same or different lan
1 This is Coleridge's system in the construction of the versification of "Christabel."
guages of comparison of the grammatical conditions of the English language in successive ages-of notices conceived to be suggestive of the manner in which the inner spirit of an author might be illustrated in the sphere of class examination of parallelism of thought and expression in writers—and of simple suggestions and references respecting the geography, mythology, or history contained in the text. The references are to sources in general within the reach of a schoolboy's library; but the Compiler is perfectly aware that he may often be justly subjected to the critic's sarcastic censure, of exhibiting in his statements and references "rather what he does not than what he does know." He can at least safely assert, that he has conscientiously endeavoured to adapt the compilation to the present state of education in this country, and to give the work that suggestive and expansive tendency, which contributes so much to the proper results on the youthful mind of a sound education in the national poetry. It would be superfluous to dilate on the experience and observation of the most enlightened men of the importance of poetry as a branch of education. The mere circumstance that this literature is the Olympian Plain, on which all creeds, prejudices, and enmities should shake hands; on which knowledge of all climes and ages, all passions and all complexions of human feeling are tolerated, except when they come as "wolves in sheep's clothing," to sap the foundations of virtue and of religion; this circumstance should constitute the third Baconian department of human knowledge a most important engine in the education of the human race. It is true that poetry, by the very glory of its fascination, has often been turned to the worst of purposes; but society has in general vindicated the sanctity of the Muse's spring, by remembering Poets only for the pure and beautiful of their achievements.
And above all is this judgment visible in English poetical literature, in which educationally, and in a popular sense historically, the evil doings of our greater Bards are unknown, while we dwell with reverential enthusiasm on the noble and pious thoughts which their genius has bequeathed to us.
Subjoined are two examples of the species of examination designed to be suggested by the notes.
SPECIMEN OF EXAMINATION ON AN OLD SCOTTISH
And first of all, with bow in hand aye bent,
Came Beauty's dame, right as she would me schent;
Syne followed all her damosels in feir,
With mony divers awful instrument;
Into the press fair Having with her went,
Syne Portrator, Plesance and lusty Cheer;
Then Reason came with shield of gold so clear;
In plate of mail, as Mars Armipotent,
Defended me that noble chevaleir.
Dunbar's Golden Targe. (Page 33.)
PRELIMINARY.-State the general plan of the "Golden Targe."Mention poems of that age or near it, constructed on a similar model.— Mention the original source of this method of constructing poems.-State the relation of the Scottish style of writing in the end of the fifteenth century to that of the preceding age.-Compare the styles of Douglas and Dunbar.
1. Enumerate the personifications in the passage.
2. The "bow" is properly the weapon of what mythic personage?
3. Give the strict idea of "Having" in the passage. meaning of the word in Macbeth, "My noble with great prediction of noble having" (p. 94).
Give the specific partner you greet Compound have.
4. Give another ancient sense of "Pleasance." Mention an instance of that application in Edinburgh, and give its old French shape.
5. Give the derivation of "Cheer: " trace the theory of its secondary applications: give its meaning in the marine phrase, “what cheer?"
6. On what passage of Scripture is founded "Reason with shield of gold?" Why of “gold?"
7. Why "Reason, in plate of mail?"
8. Armipotent is an epithet of what other deity than Mars? Mention other compounds of potent.
9. Give the French form of "Chevaleir:" its etymologies and derivatives.
10. What is the meaning of "right?" Its etymology? Give other instances, simple and compound, of this meaning.
II. "Would me schent" is an instance of what usage? quote other instances: what are the ancient and more modern senses of shend? Give other instances of words having their meanings ameliorated in the progress of language; give instances of the opposite process of words vulgarized in succeeding ages. Quote a passage from Horace, and one from Pope, illustrative of this principle.
12. Give the French shape of "damosel," and state its older French meaning.
13. Illustrate the expression "in feir."
14. State the peculiarity of construction in "With mony divers," etc., give other examples of singular words in a collective sense; quote instances of many used with the indefinite article preceding it; and mention instances of the want of fixity of grammar rules in old writers.
15. Give the English equivalent to "into:" give instances in English where in is equivalent to into: give the corresponding application of the Latin prep. in; distinguish the forms in Greek and in French; quote instances of in for into in Scottish poetry; give another Scotch preposition used for into.
16. Syne, what part of speech? Give examples of it as a noun. Meaning of "sin syne?" Explain the difference of use in the two words.