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To put forth a new anthology just now may seem to imply on the part of the editors a talent for the malapropos that falls little short of positive genius. The editors have, however, felt the need in their own work of an anthology which should combine measurable completeness with an amount of editing sufficient for supplying needed help to the student, and for furnishing material for classroom work.
In the selection of poems the primary aim has been to include the most representative work of the chief British poets, from Chaucer to Tennyson, with a view to presenting material which should at the same time be representative of the successive periods of English literary history and, within certain limitations, of the chief types of poetry. For obvious reasons the drama is wholly unrepresented, and the epic somewhat inadequately by excerpts. That these excerpts are taken from epics less well known than Paradise Lost is due to the fact that in the opinion of the editors Paradise Lost would lose by being represented by citations even more than do The Faerie Queene and Hudibras. As a secondary aim the editors have endeavored to include such poems as lend themselves to comparative study. In some instances these two purposes have conflicted. The inclusion, for example, of Lamb's Sonnet XI instead of his more famous as well as more representative The Old Familiar Faces is partly inconsistent with the general plan of the book, and must seek its justification in the interesting comparison the Sonnet affords with other poems expressing the same sense of the holiness of childhood.
The editors are quite aware that in the case of many of the minor poems the wisdom of their choice will be questioned.
Probably no selection of poems, outside those which must of necessity be included in an anthology, would seem to any teacher entirely inevitable. In the choice of poems, upon the relative value of which the verdict has not been final, personal preference must play a considerable part; and perhaps the editors have been unduly hampered by their personal preferences. In some cases they have been influenced in their choice by their experience in teaching, which has led them occasionally to include poems, not so much because they are significant in their relation to literary history or because they lend themselves to a comparative study, as because they have been found interesting to students.
In the editorial work an attempt has been made to avoid the purely informational type of annotation. The aim has been to furnish, wherever possible, suggestions that will enable the student to supply his own notes. Similarly, the questions that accompany the notes are designed to stimulate and suggest thought on the part of both teacher and student rather than to make thinking unnecessary on the part of either. It is the experience of the editors that students are often at a loss as to what they should look for in a piece of literature, and that their uncertainty is even more apparent in the study of poetry than in that of prose. To meet this difficulty the questions have been provided. In some cases they may be unnecessary. In no case are they to be regarded as final or exhaustive.
The editors will welcome friendly criticism and the correction of errors, from which they are not so sanguine as to hope that the book is wholly free.
To the Cambro-Britons and Their Harp, His Ballad of Agincourt 54
Where the Bee Sucks