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The present volume will, it is hoped, be found to contain a selection of Sacred Poetry, of such a character as can be placed with profit and pleasure in the hands of intelligent children from eight to fourteen years of age, both on Sundays and at other times.
It may be well for the Compiler to make some remarks upon the principles which have been adopted in the present selection.
Dr. Johnson has said that "the word Sacred should never be applied but where some reference may be made to a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted, or implied." The Compiler believes she has selected few poems whose insertion may not be justified by this definition, though several perhaps may not be of such a nature as are popularly termed sacred. Those which appear under the division of the Incarnate Word, and of Praise, and Prayer, are of course in some cases directly hymns, and in all cases founded upon the great doctrines of the Christian faith, or upon the events of the Redeemer's life. Many of the poems under the head of the Written Word, and indeed in b
all the divisions, are of an equally decided religious character. But in illustrating some passages of Holy Scripture, in delineating the various phases and duties of life, in tracing out the hopes and fears which encompass death, in picturing the feelings and passions of the human heart, she has freely availed herself of pieces whose tendency is moral and elevating, though the language may not be directly religious.
The Compiler has selected freely from our English Poets, ancient and modern, and she believes that there is scarcely one of high note who is not represented in the present collection. She hopes that it may be thus, in some sort, a kind of informal introduction to the highest works of English literature. It might be thought that pieces from writers so diverse as Milton and Keble, Toplady and Crashaw, Heber and Bonar, must necessarily contain heterogeneous doctrine; but it will be found that these poems, from so many writers of different schools, contain nothing which is not in accordance with those great truths of the Gospel of Christ, "which are most surely believed among us." It was remarked at the Great Exhibition, that the works of all Christian lands bore a family likeness. Is it strange that a finer and closer family likeness should be found in the works of Christian men and women, hymning the same Incarnate Lord, and contemplating life, death, and nature, from so many common points of view?
It is possible that some persons may consider many of the poems in the present volume too difficult for children of the ages indicated. The Compiler is assured, however, by actual experiment, that there is little, if anything, in the entire collection, which is not capable of giving pleasure to such children, if they are of ordinary intelligence. A namby-pamby, childish style is most unpleasing to children, especially to boys; it is surprising how soon they can understand and follow a high order of poetry (always supposing it is not subtle or metaphysical), especially when it assumes a narrative form, and has the aid of rhyme.
The Compiler is, as a general rule, most averse to the practice of garbling or altering poems. A rash collector may work as blindly with a fine poem as a rash restorer with a fine picture; but the exigencies of children's tastes and capacities, and the necessary limits of the work, have required frequent abbreviation. Thus, in selecting from the works of Wordsworth, and the great author of " The Christian Year," she has sometimes taken a single thought or picture detached from the context, having to make her choice between this course or the omission of some of the holiest and loveliest lines in English sacred song. Once or twice only she has altered a word, or transposed a line for the sake of connexion, or changed into modern language the obsolete expressions of some very old writer.
The Compiler cannot close her task without the prayer that this volume may in some measure tend to make Sunday a pleasant day to children. May it help to teach them to praise God the Father, Son, and Spirit; to contemplate life and death and their own hearts as Christians should: to understand the spirit of the Bible; and through this fair creation to look up to Him who is its Creator.
C. F. ALEXANDER.
for tire ftotrag
PR A YER
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Utter'd, or unexpress'd; The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burthen of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
When none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try; Prayer the sublimest strains that reach 'The Majesty on high.
Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice
Returning from his ways,
And cry, Behold he prays!