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TO HENRY HOLT WITH SINCERE REGARD

INTRODUCTION

The attempt is made in this collection to bring together the best short poems in the English language from the time of Spenser to the present day, together with a body of verse which, if not great poetry, has at least the distinction of wide popularity. In what degree this attempt has been successful the book itself must show; but it may be worth while to state briefly certain purposes which the compiler had in mind when he undertook the task, and which he has carried out as faithfully as he could.

These purposes were to include nothing which did not seem to him to ring true, but, at the same time, to recognize the validity of popular taste as well as of classical taste; to preserve in authentic form certain fugitive poems which everyone admires but which few know where to find; to lay emphasis upon the lighter forms of verse; and to pay especial attention to the work of living English and American poets, particularly of the younger generation.

It would be idle to suppose that everything included here will appeal to everyone as good poetry. Tastes in poetry differ even more inevitably than tastes in food; but the compiler has tried to spread his table in such a manner that every healthy taste may be abundantly satisfied without having to eat of any dish it does not care for. In one respect, he is free to confess that, in arranging the banquet, he has not relied upon his own taste alone. There is a note of pensive sentiment—the note which Longfellow knew how to strike so successfully—which, according to Professor Trent, "finds an echo in the universal human heart," and this note the compiler did not feel justified in disregarding, or even regarding lightly, simply because his own heart happens to be indifferent to it. Nor has he been deterred from using a poem because it was the common

property of anthologists, or tempted to include any because it was little known. For this is a collection, not of curious or unusual, but of favorite verse.

There will be much difference of opinion as to the merit of the selections from the work of living writers included here. Where the test of time is not available, and the stamp of wide approval is withheld, there remains only the test of individual preference, and here the compiler has consulted no judgment but his own. He has been hampered by human limitations as applied to a mass of material so overwhelming in bulk; but he hopes that the selection will be found fairly representative, and that no really great poem of recent years has been overlooked. And while the restrictions of copyright have somewhat limited the representation given certain American poets, he believes that American verse, as a whole, receives far more attention here than in any other general anthology.

II

Practically the first decision the compiler made with regard to this work was that it should be a collection, not of fragments, but of complete poems; and this, while it did not, of course, preclude the use of poems within poemsof lyrics from the dramatists, of songs from Scott's metrical romances, or of such parentheses as Byron's stanzas on Waterloo—while it did not prevent the excision of such obvious digressions as the final stanzas of Timrod's “Spring,” and while it was not construed to mean that a sequence such as “Sonnets from the Portuguese" must be given entire, has, nevertheless, resulted in some deprivations. No passages will be found here from any of Shakespeare's plays, no stanzas from the “Fairy Queen," no lines from "Paradise Lost. But the compiler feels that such loss, if it be a loss, is more than counterbalanced by the satisfaction of knowing that, throughout the book, one gets complete the poet's thought, as he embodied it in his verse.

The decision to give every poem entire has resulted in a few exclusions from another cause than that of length; for in some lyrics, especially of Restoration days, there is oc

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