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This book has been prepared with the aim of gathering into a single volume the largest practicable compilation of the best Poems of the English language, making it as nearly as possible the choicest and most complete general collection of Poetry yet published.
The name “ Library” which is given it indicates the principle upon which the book has been made : namely, that it might serve as a book of reference ; as a comprehensive exhibit of the history, growth, and condition of poetical literature ; and, more especially, as a companion, at the will of its possessor, for the varying moods of the mind.
Necessarily limited in extent, it yet contains one fifth more matter than any similar publication, presenting over fifteen hundred selections, from more than four hundred authors. It is believed that of the poetical writers acknowledged by the intelligent and cultivated to be great, none, whether English, Scotch, Irish, or American, will be found unrepresented in the volume; while many verses, of merit though not of fame, found in old
; books or caught out of the passing current of literature, have been here collated with those inore notable. And the chief object of the collection to present an array of good poetry so widely representative and so varied in its tone as to offer an answering chord to every mood and phase of human feeling — has been carefully kept in view, both in the selection and the arrangement of its contents. So that, in all senses, the realization of the significant title, “ Library," has been an objective point.
In pursuance of this plan, the highest standard of literary criticism has not been made the only test of worth for selection, since many poems have been included, which, though less perfect than others in form, have, by some power of touching the heart, gained and maintained a sure place in the popular esteem. This policy has been followed with the more confidence, as every poem of the collection has taken its place in the book only after passing the cultured criticism of Mr. William Cullen Bryant. The book is not Mr. Bryant's compilation, nor is he responsible for the classification and arrangement of the poems, although, as he says in the very interesting "Introduction” which he has contributed, he has "used a free hand, as requested, both in excluding and adding matter, according to his judgment of what was needed.” In so far, therefore, it has the sanction and authority of his widely honored name, and comes before the reading public with an indorsement second to none in the world of letters.
The Publishers desire to return their cordial thanks for the courtesy freely extended to them, by which many copyrighted American poems have been allowed to appear in this collection. In regard to a large number of them, permission has been accorded by the authors themselves; other poems, having been gathered as waifs and strays, have been necessarily used without especial authority, and where due credit is not given, or where the authorship may have been erroneously ascribed, future editions will afford opportunity for the correction which will be gladly made. Particular acknowledgments are offered to Messrs. D. Appleton & Co. for extracts from Gen. James Grant Wilson's handsome edition of the works of Fitz-Greene Halleck, and from the poems of William Cullen Bryant; to Messrs. Harper & Brothers for a few poems of Charles G. Halpine; to Messrs. J. B. Lippincott & Co. for quotations from the writings of T. Buchanan Read ; to Messrs. Charles Scribner & Co. for an extract from Dr. J. G. Holland's “BitterSweet”; and more especially to the house of Messrs. Fields, Osgood, & Co., - whose good taste, liberality, and intelligent enterprise have given them an unequalled list of American poetical writers, comprising many of the most eminent poets of the land, for their courtesy in the liberal extracts granted from their copyright editions of the writings of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Florence Percy, John Godfrey Saxe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edmund Clarence Stedman, Bayard Taylor, Jolin Townsend Trowbridge, and John Greenleaf Whittier.
The Publishers take pleasure in believing that many readers will find in this volume inducements to seek complete editions of favorite American poets, in order to become better acquainted with those authors whose writings have made this compilation so complete in the poetical literature of our own land.
With these brief explanations and acknowledgments, the “Library of Poetry and Song” is placed before the public, in the hope that it will be deemed worthy of its title.