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Two thirds of our space are naturally required for selections from the typical division. This is seen to begin with the appointment of Tennyson as laureate, since be scarcely had a following until about that date. In him we find, on the reflective side, a sense of Nature akin to Wordsworth’s, and on the æsthetic, an artistic perfection foretokened by Keats, - in other words, insight and taste united through his genius had their outcome in the composite idyllic school, supremely representative of the Victorian prime. Tennyson idealized the full advance of nineteenth century speculation, ethical and scientific, in the production of "In Memoriam," and to the end in such a poem as “ Vastness.” Possibly, also, it was out of his early mediæval romanticism that the next most striking school arose with Rossetti and his fellow Pre-Raphaelites who are grouped as Poets of the Renaissance: their revival including both Greek and Gothic modes and motives, as finally combined in the masterwork of Swinburne. The third and equal force of the epoch is that of Browning, long holding his rugged ground alone, as afterward with half the world to stay him ; but, like other men of unique genius, not the founder of a school, — his manner failing in weaker hands. In Arnold's composite verse the reflective prevails over the æsthetic. Besides these chiefs of the quarter-century are various “ distinctive” poets, as in the earlier division, each belonging to no general group. Then we have the songsters, for whom all of us confess a kindly feeling ; the balladists withal, and the dramatists, — such as they are ; also the makers of lighter verse, and other lyrists of a modest station, often yielding something that lends a special grace to an Anthology.
The closing era is of the recent poets of Great Britain, and begins very clearly about twenty years ago.
At that date, the direct influences of Tennyson, Browning, Swinburne, and Rossetti began to appear less obviously, or were blended, where apparent, in the verse of a younger generation. The new lyrists had motives of their own, and here and there a new note. There was a lighter touch, a daintiness of wit and esprit, a revival of early minstrel “forms,” and every token of a blithe and courtly Ecole Intermédiaire : evidence, at least, of emancipation from the stress of the long dominant Victorian chord. The change has become decisive since the "Jubilee Year,” to which my supplementary review was extended, and of late we have a distinctly lyrical, though minor song-burst, even if the mother country be not, as in its springtime of pleasant minstrelsy, "a nest of singing-birds." In the later ditties England's hawthorn-edged lanes and meadows come to mind, the skylark carols, and we have verse as pastoral as Mr. Abbey's drawings for Herrick and Goldsmith. This, to my, view, if not very great, is more genuine and
hopeful than any further iteration of “ French Forms," and the same may
be sionally said for those town-lyrics which strive to express certain garish, wandering phases of the London of to-day. Irish verse, which always has had quality, begins to take on art. But the strongest recent work is found in the ballads of a few men and women, and of these balladists, one born out of Great Britain is first without a seeming effort. As for the drama (considering the whole reign), its significant poetry, beyond a few structures modelled after the antique, and those of Horne, Tay. lor, and Swinburne, is found mainly in the peculiar and masterful work of Browning; nevertheless, lyrical song indicates a dramatic inspiration, because it is so human, and if the novel did not afford a continuous exercise of the dramatic gift, I would look to see the drama, or verse with pronounced dramatic qualities, attend the rise of the next poetic school. If, on the other hand, there is to ensue a non-imaginative era, a fallow interval, it will be neither strange nor much to be deplored after the productive affluence of the reign now ending with the century.
A selection from the minstrelsy of Great Britain's colonies fills out the scheme of the Anthology. The Australian yield is sufficiently meagre, but I have chosen what seems most local and characteristic. Canada is well in the lists with a group of lyrists whose merit has made their names familiar to readers of our own periodicals, and who feel and healthfully express the sentiment, the atmosphere, of their northern land. I am sure that the space reserved for them in this volume will not seem ill-bestowed. One noteworthy trait of colonial poetry is the frequency with which it takes the ballad form. In a rude way this is seen in the literature of our own colonial period, and along our more recent frontier settlements. By some law akin to that which makes balladry — repeated from mouth to mouth the natural song of primitive man, of the epic youth of a race or nation, so its form and spirit appear to characterize the verse of a people not primitive, though the colonial pioneers of life and literature in a new land.
To a few exquisite but unnamed quatrains and lyrics by Landor, I have prefixed the felicitous titles given to them by Mr. Aldrich in the little book “Cameos," of which he and I were the editors a score of years ago. From the early minstrels a compiler's selections are not hard to make. The panel already has been struck by time itself, which declares that, even in the case of some uneven roisterer, one or two fortunate catches shall preserve his name. More embarrassment comes from the knowledge that lovers of such poets as Tennyson, who made no imperfect poem, and Browning, who wrote none that was meaningless, are slow to understand why certain pieces, for which an editor, doubtless, shares their own regard, are
perforce omitted. To surmise, moreover, which is the one lasting note of a new voice or which of all the younger band is to win renown, this is the labor and the work, seeing that as to finish they are all sensitive enough, except now and then one who invites attention by contempt for it. Nothing is more evident than the good craftsmanship of latter-day English and American verse-makers, - a matter of course, after the object-lessons given by their immediate forbears. All in all, the anthologist must rest his cause upon its good intention. In speaking of those who hunt up and reprint the faulty work of authors, —“the imperfect thing or thought” which in mature years they have tried to suppress, – Palgrave justly says in his “ Pro Mortuis,”
Nor has the dead worse foe than he
And piles them on his tomb." Conversely, one perhaps earns some right to count himself the artist's friend, whose endeavor is to discover and preserve, from the once cherished treasures of even a humble fellow of the craft, at least
of song, defying age.” Compact Biographical Notes, upon all the poets represented, follow the main text. Where authorities conflict, and usually, also, in the cases of recent authors, effort has been made to secure the desired information at first hand. For this, and for the general result, my hearty thanks are due to the skill and patience of Miss Vernetta E. Coleman who has prepared the greater portion of the Notes. The faithfulness of the text at large has been enhanced by the cooperation of the Riverside Press, and this is not the first time when I have been grateful to its Corrector and his assistants for really critical attention given to a work passing through their hands.
E. C. S. New YORK, September, 1895.
For the text of the selections in this Anthology, transcripts have been made, as far as possible, from the books of the respective autho many of which volumes are upon the editor's shelves. Much dependence, however, has been placed on the Astor, Mercantile, Columbia College, and Society Libraries, and the Library of the Y. W. C. Association. To the librarians of these institutions the editor's acknowledgments are rendered for courteous assistance. His thanks are due, also, to Mr. R. H. Stoddard, Mr. R. W. Gilder, Prof. Brander Matthews, and Prof. F. D. Sherman, of New York, Mr. Harrison S. Morris, of Philadelphia, Mr. G. H. Ellwanger, of Rochester, and Prof. C. G. D. Roberts, late of Windsor, N. S., for giving him the use of their collections, and to a few other friends for various services. With respect to attractive single poems, and to authors whose original editions could not be obtained, be has found the eight volumes of Mr. Miles's “The Poets and the Poetry of the Century” welcome aids to his research. Use also has been made of Mr. Sharp's “Canterbury Poets" series, Prof. Sladen’s “ Australian Poets,” Mr. Schuyler-Lighthall's “ Songs of the Great Dominion," and of several minor collections of Scottish, Irish, and English-dialect verge.
His thanks are rendered to many living British poets, who now, under the amended copyright law, are so closely affiliated with us, for the privilege cheerfully given of taking his own selections from their works. This usufruct has been generously confirmed by the publishers issuing their American editions. The editor desires to express his grateful obligations to Messrs. Macmillan & Co. and Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co., of London and New York; to Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, Messrs. Dodd, Mead & Co., Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons, and the Frederick A. Stokes Company, of New York; to Messrs. Roberts Brothers and Messrs. Copeland & Day, of Boston ; and to Messrs. Stone & Kimball and Messrs. Way & Williams, of Chicago.
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