« VorigeDoorgaan »
poetry to present a collection of what is best in it, chosen and judged by those whose tastes and studies specially qualify them for the several tasks they have undertaken.
Our design has not been to present a complete collection. of all that may fairly be called masterpieces-if it had been so, the volumes would of necessity have been three times as many as they are. Still less has it been to give a complete history of English poetry-if it had been so, many names that we have passed over would have been admitted. It has been, to collect as many of the best and most characteristic of their writings as should fully represent the great poets, and at the same time to omit no one who is poetically considerable. There are writers who were famous in their day and who played a great part in the history of English literature, but who have faded from public notice and are no longer generally read; men like Sidney, and Cowley, and Waller. Again, there are writers who never were well known, but who wrote a few beautiful poems as it were by accident; men like some of the minor Elizabethans, or Lovelace, or Christopher Smart. We have endeavoured to do justice to both these classes; to gather from the former what may serve to explain why they were famous, and from the latter whatever they wrote that is of real poetical excellence.
We have not included the writings of living poets, nor the drama, properly so called. Had we admitted the drama we should have been compelled to double our space; besides, in spite of Charles Lamb, we may venture to say that by the nature of the case a play lends itself to selection less than any other form of literature. But where a play is only a play in name, like Comus or the Gentle Shepherd, we have not excluded it; and songs from the dramatists have of course been admitted.
Two points seem to require a word of notice-the order and the orthography. The first is approximately chronological; for in this matter it was found impossible to follow any rigid rule. To go uniformly by the date, either of birth or publication, would be in many cases misleading; for we often find a poet not beginning to write till after the death of some younger contemporary, and oftener still we find his poems only posthumously collected. A vague floruit circa is the only date. that is often possible in literary history. With regard to the orthography, the principle adopted has been, to print according to contemporary spelling up to the time of Wyatt and Surrey-the time of the Renascence-and since that date to adopt the uniform modern spelling. The exceptions that we have made are in the case of the Scotch poets (though with them it is a matter rather of language than of orthography), and of Spenser, who is so intentionally archaic that his spelling is peculiar, and is a part of himself. Spenser accordingly we have printed from Dr. Morris's text.
It remains for the Editor to express his cordial thanks to those who have so kindly co-operated with him; and he may be permitted to mention specially the names of Professor Skeat, who has revised the whole of the text of the poets down to Douglas; of Mr. Edmund W. Gosse, whose great knowledge of English poetry, especially of that of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, has been of the greatest service to the book; and of Mr. Matthew Arnold, who, besides his direct contributions, has from time to time given most valuable advice.
POEMS COMMONLY ATTRIBUTED TO CHAUCER
Extracts from The Romaunt of the Rose
Extracts from Cinkante Balades
Prologue to the Legende of Goode Women
Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Matthew Arnold xvii
JAMES THE FIRST OF SCOTLAND (1394-1437)
The Taill of the Lyoun and the Mous
Extracts from The Thrissill and the Rois.
The Dance of the Sevin Deidly Synnis
JOHN SKELTON (1460?-1529)
Extract from The Bowge of Court:
Extracts from The Pastime of Pleasure:
Dialogue between Graunde Amoure and La Pucel
Amoure laments the absence of La Pucel
The Character of a True Knight
Extract from The Garlande of Laurell:
SIR DAVID LYNDESAY (1490?-1558)
The Testament and Complaynt of the Papingo
Prof. Nichol 192