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THE

OF THE

WITH A PRW

REESE LIBRARY

BEAUTIES
BRITISH POETS,
INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS
By the Reb. George Crsly.

BOSTON:
PHILLIPS, SAMPSON, AND COMPANY.
NEW YORK: J. C. DERBY.

1854.
UNIVERSITY
CALIFORNIA

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INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS.

ENGLISH POETRY constitutes one of the most brilliant portions of the intellectual history of Modern Europe. The era of English Poetry commences with the Norman Invasion. Anglo-Saxon Poems had existed; but their topics, their rudeness, or the decay of the language, extinguished them in the presence of a superior dialect and a more fortunate time. The few that remain, are merely memorials of some barbarian event, or harsh attempts to throw some superstitious fable into metre. The violence of the Norman Conquest, that shook the laws and institutions of England, also shook the language. But here the violence was

more than compensated by the novelty, richness, and vigour of the results. The poetical soil was ploughed roughly; but, in the act, its native fertility was put in motion

the old incumbrances were swept away, and a new and lovely vegetation was left free to spread and luxuriatc. The transfer of the Norman Court to England, was the transfer of a warlike, romantic, and regal system, into a land of native generosity and courage, yet hitherto but little acquainted with the higher arts of nations. The Conqueror, and his descendants, brought with them many noble recollections, much spirit-stirring pomp, and much picturesque ceremonial. Italy was then the golden fount, from which the minor urns drew light: and the intercourse of the Norman princes, the universal conquerors, with the finest regions of Europe, had raised their court to a comparative height of civilization. The Minstrel followed the Monarch, and was essential, not more to his indulgcuce than to his fame. The wild traditions of the North ; the French and Italian narratives of bold exploit, or idolatrous devotion to the Sex; and those oriental tales, whose high-coloured conceptions of supernatural agency, royal grandeur, and superb enjoyment, captivate us, even in our day of cold and chastised fancy, moved before the young mind of England like a new creation. If England had been left to the full exercise of her powers, thus awakened, probably no nation of Europe would have made a more rapid progress to the highest intellectual excellence. But war

came

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