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THE

ENGLISH POETS

SELECTIONS

WITH CRITICAL INTRODUCTIONS

BY VARIOUS WRITERS

AND A GENERAL INTRODUCTION BY

MATTHEW ARNOLD

EDITED BY

THOMAS HUMPHRY WARD, M.A.

Late Fellow of Braserose College, Oxford

VOL. I

CHAUCER to DONNE

London

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1903
[All rights reserved]

W 262
Vol

Printed at the University Press, Oxford, 1880 Reprinted 1883, 1887, 1891, 1895, 1899, 1901, 1903

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5648 20-291

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PREFACE.

The aim of this book is to supply an admitted want—that of an anthology which may adequately represent the vast and varied field of English Poetry. Nothing of the kind at present exists.

There are great collections of the whole works of the poets, like that of Chalmers; there are innumerable volumes of Beauties' of a more or less unsatisfactory kind; there are Selections from single poets; there are a few admirable volumes, like that of Mr. Palgrave, which deal with special departments of our poetical literature. The only book which attempts to cover the whole ground and to select on a large scale is Campbell's; and Campbell's, though the work of a true poet and, according to the standard of his time, a critic of authority, can no longer be regarded as sufficient. It is indeed impossible that a selection of the kind should be really well done, should be done with an approach to finality, if it is the work of one critic alone. The history of English poetry is so wide, its various sections and stages have become the objects of so special a study, that a book which aims at selecting the best from the whole field and pronouncing its judgments with some degree of authority, must not be the work of one writer, but of many. It was on this plan that M. Crépet's excellent book, Les poètes français, was constructed twenty years ago; and what he there did for French poetry we here wish to do for English

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