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An Introduction to Poetry is intended for the college freshman or sophomore as well as for the general reader. Its chief aims are two: first, to offer in a natural and interesting manner the technical apparatus, the criticism, and the examples needed for a good elementary knowledge of English poetry; second, to offer a convenient opportunity for a comparison of the new and the older English and American poets.
The twelve chapters approach poetry from various angles-type, meter, subject, and period. Each chapter includes enough poems to illustrate well the points brought out in the text. The explanations of poetic technique are, we believe, sufficiently full, and are so introduced as to be neither difficult nor tedious. General criticism is provided at appropriate places, and many points of possible difficulty or exceptional interest are explained not in foot-notes, but in the text. We have arranged poems in such groups that the reader is able to criticize for himself; and we have, as far as possible, made the transition from poem to poem easy and continuous. We have begun with the song because it is a primitive and universally understood type of poem. If we have given too generous space to the Old French forms, light verse, or free verse, we have done so on the grounds either of special difficulty or of unusual interest at the present time.
We have, in the second place, invited an almost constant comparison between the older and the contemporary poets. In this poetic age, the touchstone of the old is the best criterion for judging the new. Moreover since new writers arise while the span of life continues essentially the same—it is necessary that each generation should discard some of the verse approved by its predecessors as "classic." Our omission of popular older poems is, nevertheless, due also in large part to the constraining limitations of an anthology of the inductive type. Still, if the proportion of contemporary verse seems too great, one should remember that contemporaneity is second only to absolute value in determining the appeal of a work of art. A poem can to no future generation mean as much as to the sympathetic contemporaries of its author.
It should be reiterated here that the several hundred poems included in this work are not offered as the several hundred greatest poems in the English language. Considerations of space, of points to be illustrated, of difficulties of structure have compelled us to omit some poems that we should have liked to use. We believe, however, that a reader of catholic taste will find little to object to in the selections. We have met with such willing cooperation from the poets and publishers who own the copyrights of the included contemporary selections that the list of poems originally chosen has had to be modified in less than a dozen cases. The necessary omissions have nevertheless been, we regret to say, some of the greatest of recent poems. To mention but one instance, Mr. John Masefield, although generously granting our other re
quests, declined to authorize the use of his "August, 1914."
The plan of An Introduction to Poetry was conceived by Mr. Beaty. At first it was intended that each author should write six chapters, but circumstances prevented Mr. Beaty from writing more than four-Chapters III, IV, VII, and VIII. The other eight are by Mr. Hubbell. The entire book has, however, been revised by both authors, and each assumes full responsibility for all selections, critical comments, and errors.
We owe a general obligation to many of the works listed in the Bibliography and to the lectures of our former teachers—especially those of Columbia University. To our colleagues, Professors John H. McGinnis and Marie D. Hemke, of the English Department of Southern Methodist University, we are indebted for valuable criticism. Miss Hemke has read the entire manuscript, much of it more than once, and has assisted us in many other ways. To Mrs. Beaty and Mrs. Hubbell we are deeply indebted for criticism and helpful suggestions, and, in the case of Mrs. Beaty, for very material assistance in preparing the manuscript for the press.
Southern Methodist University,
J. B. H.