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pleasures” that “to verse belong;" but there are yet more who would gladly do this, were they not
“Chained to the desk, the world's unwilling slaves,”
or in some other way so fully engaged in working out the great problem of life, and satisfying
“That sad necessity for bread and cheese"
which none of us can escape, that they are quite unable to do so. To such as these we offer, with some confidence, and with no little sympathy, our collection of choice flowers, culled from the gardens of Poesy: may they refresh the mind, and gladden the heart, and beautify the path, of many a careworn toiler in the fields of labour, of whatsoever kind. Not a Poet of all the five hundred and more whom we have called on 'to contribute to these pages—from Hesiod, and Homer, and Virgil, and Horace, and others, whose voices float like mysterious music amid the myths and traditions of by-gone ages, to Chaucer, who sang in the dawning light of English literature, and the Bard of Avon, and that glorious company who proclaimed the bursting forth of its noontide splendour; and then, again, to
Milton, and Dryden, and Pope, and on through the long array of sweet singers, on whom the mantle of Poetic inspiration has fallen, down to our own time;—not one of them, we say, whatever were his age, or tongue, or creed, but would rejoice so to lighten the toil of the toiler, so to cheer the heart of the weary and heavy-laden.
“Sit still upon your thrones,
O ye poetic ones!
Ye to yourselves suffice,
Without its flatteries,
is the advice of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her compeers of "the silver-stringed lyre;” and no one has a better appreciation than herself of the Poet's office and vocation. Yet, as the cloud cannot send down its rain without refreshing, nor the sun pour out its beams without warming and gladdening all nature, neither can the Poet, far exalted as he may be above the vexed and unquiet earth, sing of his far-reaching thoughts and his lofty aspirations, and of whatsoever is holy, and beautiful, and true, but there will be listening hearts, and attentive minds, on which his strains will fall, as the refreshing rain and the genial sunshine upon the thirsty soil, vivifying, purifying, and invigorating, and making even the arid desert "blossom as the rose.” Yes, however lifted above this work-day world may be the Poet, however hidden in the light of thought,” as the lark in golden sunshine, and rapturously singing, as though "quiring to the young-eyed cherubim,” his song will not be lost terrestrial ears; even amid the din of the great battle of life it will be heard-heard now, and for ever:
Though the multitude may never
Come to hearken to the strain;
All thy singing be in vain;
Fill his heart, and close his ears;
Noble statesmen, high-born peers;
Poet! ne'ertheless continue
To uplift thy voice in song;
To subdue it were a wrong.
Blending notes of love and praise;
Fertilizing arid ways;
Flowers shall spring where least expected,
Cheering thoughts in many a heart,
Stricken by affliction's dart;
Such shall be thy blessed lot,
And, when dead, still unforgot.”
Scarcely, however, need the true Poet be told this; he knows full well that the glorious talent with which he is entrusted, is for the enjoyment of others, no less than of himself—it cannot be made to minister to his special delight only, and if it could, he would not so employ it, for his creed is this,
“Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoe'er estate,
To keep and cultivate,
For the Lord on whom I wait."
One word as to our plan: it will be seen that
have arranged our extracts under certain heads, which are placed in alphabetical order; the several quotations too, are arranged chronologically, or nearly so; and in many instances it will be curious to observe how the idea, and often the same form of expression, has been repeated by Poets of different periods; or how a similar thought has been cast into different mould, and taken a shape and hue in accordance with the peculiarities of the mind through which it has passed. A copious index of subjects is given, and also one of authors' names, by means of which the beauties of any particular Poet may be easily referred to, and collected, by a reader who may be desirous of separating them from the “Beauties of all the Poets.” It will thus be seen that our plan is a tolerably comprehensive one, and we have spared no pains