« PreviousContinue »
matter is such that the study of English poetry is made scientific, and, as far as possible, all vagueness and illusions are removed from its teaching.
In the preparation of this work thanks are due Richard G. Moulton, Professor of Literature in English in the University of Chicago, for a thorough examination of the manuscript ; to Professor Alexander Smith of the same University, for a careful reading and the recommendation to others; to Professor Charles F. Johnson of Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., for valuable suggestions and cursory notes in the manuscript ; to Mr. C. W. French, Principal of the Hyde Park High School, Chicago, for suggested material to adapt the book to the ordinary high school; to Professor George H. Meyer of the University of Illinois, for his careful and scholarly reading of the proof; to Messrs. D. C. Heath & Co., for permission to use an excerpt from Professor James Lesslie Hall's “ Translation of Beowulf”; to Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, for permission to use Mr. Stopford Brooke's blank verse translation of the Anglo-Saxon elegy, “The Wanderer ”; and, finally, to my publishers, for many helpful suggestions and courtesies.
R. N. W. JUNE, 1903
This Anthology contains poems which for the most part have been classified as the masterpieces of English poetry. The selections have been arranged according to the various historical periods in the development of English literature from “ Beowulf” to Kipling. The first part of the Anthology, from the Anglo-Saxon Period to the Puritan Period, may be completed in three months; the second part, from the Puritan Period to the Neo-Romantic Period, in six.
The poems have been annotated for colleges, general classes in English literature, and for the third and fourth year grades in high schools.
In our public schools, in the study of English poetry, a poem should be approached from three sides: (1) pupils should understand that there are two settings, one belonging to the past, and another to the present, that its materials of conception have been taken from former English poems and from contemporary ones; (2) pupils must study past and present mental, moral, and social history that has made the poem existible, thereby analysing the poetical spiritual energy as presented by the light of a past or a present historical setting; and (3) they must fully appreciate that the form and the metre have come either from a past or from a present model,
In studying the selections in this Anthology, pupils are constantly to be instructed by the method of interpreting poems by means of those which previously have been read. They should observe that all English poets have more or less
drunk from one Hippocrene, which is the poetic past of England, for their moods, psychology, and æsthetics. On taking up each new poem, they should hear a mono-chord such as Rossetti's:
"Oh! what is this that knows the road I came,
The flame turned cloud, the cloud returned to flame,
Collins' "Ode to Evening" and Gray's "Elegy" should be interpreted by Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso"; Goldsmith's "The Deserted Village" by "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," and "Lycidas"; Burns' "The Cotter's Saturday Night "by Gray's "Elegy "; and Kipling's "Recessional " by the tone and sentiment of Milton's "On The Late Massacre In Piedmont."
These poems have been mentioned since obviously they are similar in theme and vocabulary. Though it is difficult in many poems to prove that poets have a general storehouse to which they go for poetic materials, it is assuredly evident that great phrases have been coined with the same stamp in the evolution of English poetry. It is easy to see where Gray has obtained,
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
if Waller's "Go! Lovely Rose" and Pope's "The Rape Of The Lock" have been read. By this assertion no charge of plagiarism is preferred against Gray, only that emotional thoughts of English poets have been inspired by past poetical materials. Observe in "On The Receipt Of My Mother's Picture" Cowper's debt to Milton, and in the last stanza of Burns' "To A Mountain Daisy," what Byron unconsciously used in his last poem. Likewise Matthew Arnold in "SelfDependence" ran to the literary past of Keats' "Bright star,
would I were steadfast as thou art," and to a certain line in Wordsworth's sonnet “ To Milton."
These examples show the first method of interpreting the poems. Secondary school pupils may at all times be held responsible for poetic details mastered in previously read poems, and are perfectly competent to use them as touchstones on succeeding ones. They can compare the ways in which literary artists have felt the heart-beat of nature. When in “ The Bride of Lammermoor," in a ruinous tower overlooking the stormy German ocean and the Kelpie's Flow, are seen for the first time the thin grey hairs and the sharp, high features of Caleb Balderstone, we realise that here is the strong character of the novel. Now, the reader familiar with the landscape of Scott's fiction, by the lightning flash that illuminates Caleb, ought to recognise in the cell of Copmanhurst, where Scott has brought king and outlaw face to face in the carousal of a night, a Richard Caur-de-Lion who is not a piece of stuffed armour, but a brother of Sir Walter's whose every characteristic is known. As strong in flesh and blood is Scott's king as Scott's servant.
Such comparative work is not beyond the comprehension of the secondary school pupil. “ Ivanhoe” is not “ The Bride of Lammermoor”; it is different from its predecessor,
' since it is a new species, but it has the same characteristics, when it comes to measuring Richard with Caleb. As in fiction, so is it in poetry. The only way of getting at parental traits of a new poetic piece is by measuring it with a similar species of the same class: the new combination must be compared with the old.
Now, the pupil moves on to the estimation of the personalities of the poets, and by many episodes in their lives he accounts for the composition of certain poems. It is interesting to find reasons for Pope's invective leveled at Addison ; to find Cowper's explanation of the quarrel between Mrs.
Unwin and Lady Austen in "The Rose"; to know why Burns wrote "To Mary In Heaven," and how he composed "Tam O'Shanter "; to comprehend why Keats hung crape on the imagery of his "Ode To A Nightingale"; and what made Tennyson write "Break, Break, Break," and how "Merlin And The Gleam serves as his autobiography.
The pupil, in passing from the specific to the general, from the poets to their environments, becomes fascinated by the problem of how far the historical has affected their temperamental qualities; how, by their criticisms of the dominant thought of their epochs, may be measured their intellectual stature and the amount of their ethical acumen.
Milton, undeterred by the unappreciative age of Charles I. that gave prizes to poets dealing with trivial subjects, wrote a classical pastoral elegy which he knew would fall far short of desert, and which lost him contemporary fame. Though many of his contemporaries considered "Lycidas" a stillborn product of his pen, he continued to write unhampered by public opinion, governing his taste by that Puritanism which afterwards swayed all his poetry. Dryden was precisely otherwise; like a chameleon, his poetry was coloured with every new historical environment. His poetry was now "Lines On The Death Of Cromwell," now "Astræa Redux,"
"Religio Laici," and finally "The Hind And The Panther." Pope at Binfield and Twickenham willingly became a slave of utilitarian poetry current in the Augustan age, and expressed views of life in unvaried melodic cadences through models set by the classical writers. Cowper, by the slow winding Ouse, heard church-bells from distant spires, saw graceful hedges, meditated on African slave-trade, Puss, Tiney, and Bess, and rejected the ancient classical canons of literary judgment by incorporating into his poetry a profound love of God, nature, man, and animal. To the mysticism, symbolism, and aspiration of romanticism in its first phase,