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In the preparation of the following pages, the editor has endeavored to make a compilation of poetry which shall unite within a single volume the commendable features which appear separately in the various compila tions previously made. While the collection is one of acknowledged gems, in which the reader for pleasure may find entertainment for a leisure half-hour, the wants of the student and the more careful reader, have been constantly kept in mind. The selections are chronologically arranged, so as to present a view of the growth. of English verse from the earliest authors to the present day, for the purpose of enabling the reader at once to trace its progress and to make comparisons between the poets of the same period, and thus to judge of their proper rank and place in English Literature. In carrying out this double purpose, the editor has recognized the necessity of keeping the work within the compass of an ordinary twelve-mo volume which might fill the place of the bulky compilations, heretofore issued at a cost so great as to forever place them beyond the reach of those who perhaps need them most.

With this limitation as to space, it has been impossible to include long poems. In the choice of the selections, the editor has therefore been guided by two motives: first, to present such excerpts as are in themselves gems; second, to give such portions of the longer poems of distinctive merit as best illustrate the character of the poems and the style of the author. To the first class of selections titles have been given to correspond with the sentiment contained in the lines; while the selections from the longer poems bear the titles by which the poems

themselves are known, so that the reader who wishes to find the entire poems may have a ready guide.

It is not claimed for this volume, that it contains all the gems of English and American poetry, for the number of specimens has been purposely limited. It may be that some verses are omitted which should have found a place here in preference to those selected. This is at matter of judgment and critical taste, in which the editor may have erred. It is claimed, however, that these selections are all gems, the merits of which are universally conceded. They comprise a greater number, and they present the characteristics of a greater number of authors, than in any previous compilation within the same limitations as to style and price.

As the poetry of the present time was approached, the work of selection was somewhat embarrassed by the mass of meritorious verse which has, as yet, remained uncol lected. The poetic gems of the last half of the present century would alone fill a volume like this. The time has not yet come for such a collection, and therefore only the best known living writers are here represented. Another source of embarrassment, in selecting from living authors, was encountered in the laws of copyright. Whenever we have selected from works thus protected, we have obtained permission from those holding the copyright, and thus all the rights of property have been respected. Our acknowledgments are due to authors and publishers who, in this and other respects, have aided us in our work.

New York, Nov. 15th, 1884.




BUT, sith 'tis so there is a trespass done,
Unto Mercy let yield the trespassour.
It is her office to redress it soon,
For trespass to Mercy a mirrour.

And like as the sweet hath the price by sour,
So by Trespass, Mercy hath all her might;
Without Trespass, Mercy hath lack of light.

What should Physic do but if Sickness were?
What needeth salve but if there were a sore?
What needeth drink where thirst hath no power?
What should Mercy do, but Trespass go afore?
But Trespass, woll be little store;
Without Trespass near execution,
May Mercy have ne chief perfection.

Geoffrey Chaucer, 1328-1400,


BE merry, man, and tak nought far in mynd
The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow,
To God be humble, to thy friend be kind,

And with thy neighbors gladly lend and borrow; His chance to-night it may be thine to-morrow. Be blythe in heart for ony adventure;

For with wysane it hath been said aforrow,
Without gladness availeth no treasure.

William Dunbar, 1465-1530.


THE longer life the more offence,
The more offence the greater paine,
The greater paine the less defence,
The lesse defence the lesser gaine;
The loss of gaine long yll doth trye,
Wherefore come death and let me dye.
The shorter life, less count I finde,
The less account the sooner made,
The account soon made, the merier mind,
The merier mynd doth thought evade;
Short life in truth this thing doth trye,
Wherefore come death and let me dye.
Come gentle death, the ebbe of care,
The ebbe of care, the flood of life,
The flood of life, the joyful fare,
The joyful fare, the end of strife,
The end of strife, that thing wish I,
Wherefore come death and let me die.

Sir Thos. Wyat, 1503-'54


SET me whereas the sunne doth parche the grene,
Or where his beames do not dissolue the yse;
In temperate heate where he is felt and sene;
In presence prest of people madde or wise;
Set me in hye, or yet in low degree;
In longest night, or in the shortest daye :
In clearest skie, or where cloudes thickest be;
In lusty youth, or when my heeres are graye:
Set me in heauen, in earth, or els in hell,
In hyll or dale, or in the foming flood,
Thrall, or at large, aliue whereso I dwell,
Sicke or in health, in euill fame or good:
Hers will I be, and onely with this thought
Content my self, although my chaunce be nought.
Howard, Earl of Surrey, 1518-'47.

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