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In the matter of texts I have been exceptionally fortunate in having at hand two such remarkable collections of Americana as the Harris Collection of American Poetry and the John Carter Brown Library. I have taken advantage of their resources to reprint, in full or in part, some rare works which have seldom or never been reprinted. Furthermore, all the seventeenth and eighteenth century poems in this volume, with a few exceptions, are carefully reproduced from first or early editions, not from reprints. The spelling, capitals, italics, etc., of these editions have been retained, because the interest of many of the poems is largely antiquarian; but typographical errors have been corrected, usually without note, and the varying styles in subheadings, stage-directions, etc., which have no particular significance, have been made uniform. The punctuation of the original editions, which is often misleading, has been modernized as an aid to getting the sense quickly and accurately; and for the same reason the long s, and the interchange of i and j and of u and v, have not been reproduced. In the poetry of the nineteenth century there was less occasion for the use of early editions; but I have included extracts from some rare volumes of minor poets and from Bryant's "Embargo,” and have reprinted entire the first form of “Snow-Bound" and the “Commemoration Ode.” Other early editions are utilized in the Notes.
The Notes follow the plan which has met with favor in my four volumes of English Poems. Biographies and criticisms by the editor are omitted, because it is assumed that the student will use some manual of the history of American literature in connection with the texts. The Notes include (1) the poet's theory of poetry when this can be given in his own words; (2) statements by the poet or his friends which throw light on the meaning of a poem, or give circumstances connected with the composition of it; (3) explanations of words, allusions, etc., which the student or reader may find obscure; (4) variant readings of a few poems, such as “Thanatopsis” and “The City in the Sea,” whose revision has peculiar interest or significance; (5) quotations from sources and parallel passages, to show the poet's literary relationships and his way of shaping material; (6) specimens of contemporary criticism, taken chiefly from periodicals.
I express my thanks to Mr. H. L. Koopman, of the John Hay Library, and to Mr. G. P. Winship, of the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, for courtesies in connection with the use of rare books; and to Professor W. P. Trent, who has kindly allowed me to reprint from his Southern Writers a poem by Hayne not otherwise accessible to me, and has furnished certain information about it. My thanks are also due to the following men and publishing houses for kind permission to use copyrighted material: D. Appleton & Co., publishers of Bryant's works and of Godwin's life of him; Messrs. H. L. Traubel and T. B. Harned, Whitman's literary executors, and Mitchell Kennerley, the publisher of his works; the B. F. Johnson Publishing Co., publishers of Timrod's poems; Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., publishers of Hayne's poems; Mr. M. P. Andrews, editor of Randall's poems, and the Whitehall Publishing Co., the publishers of them; Mr. W. H. Thompson, author of "The High Tide at Gettysburg"; the Whitaker & Ray-Wiggin Co., publishers of Miller's poems; Charles Scribner's Sons, publishers of Lanier's poems; Little, Brown & Co., publishers of Miss Dickinson's poems. My wife has rendered invaluable assistance by preparing copy, collating texts, making the table of contents and the indices, revising notes, and reading proof; without her aid my labor would have been much heavier, and the book less accurate.
W. C. B. BROWN UNIVERSITY
August 20, 1912