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“ Song from baser thoughts should win us;
Song should charm us out of woe; Song should stir the heart within us,
Like a patriot's friendly blow.
“ Pains and pleasures, all man doeth,
War and peace, and right and wrong, -All things that the soul subdueth,
Should be vanquish'd, too, by Song. “ Song should spur the mind to duty,
Nerve the weak, and stir the strong: Every deed of truth and beauty
Should be crown'd by starry Song!”
ONE of the noblest functions of poetry is to
nerve the spirit for the realities of Life
and Labour. As there is no evading of these realities, be they pleasant or painful, so there is none to whom the voice of Song may not come with its notes of encouragement and consolation. Energetic or indolent, prosperous or unsuccessful, hopeful or despondent—all need alike an indexfinger to the path of duty, if not to incite, at least to remind, and if not to congratulate, at least to soothe and determine. To this end the every-day teachings of prose were tame and ineffectual compared with the stirring strains of the poet; and under this belief we have in the present Selection enlisted their assistance.
In no lyrical theme does modern poetry more excel than in that of Life and Labour; and to
none has the muse of our more earnest writers been so enthusiastically devoted. Incentives to life-action, sense of duty, the dignity of labour, the value of the present, the importance of selfreliance, and hundreds of similar topics have been ennobled by their Song, which has become an acknowledged power in the social and moral progress of the day. From these sources we have selected the “Life-Lights” of the present volumebearing especially in mind the requirements of the young and inexperienced, the toiled and tried, and those (of whom, alas! there are always too many) who would look to others for what they shrink from doing for themselves. As life has its duties, and duty demands labour, so the aim has been to inculcate submission, cheerfulness, and hope the doing of that which lies immediately before us—and above all, facing heartily and manfully the lot which Providence has assigned to us.
“Droop not, though shame, sin, and anguish are round thee;
Rest not content in thy darkness—a clod!
Let thy great deeds be thy prayer to thy God.”