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It is trusted that the pieces of which the following Collection is composed, will be generally considered as meriting the appellation of GEMS OF SACRED POETRY; but it may be requisite to give some explanation of the manner in which the work has been formed.
While it has been thought incumbent to present pieces by the great masters of the lyre, although they may happen to be well known, it has been also regarded as especially desirable to draw from their undeserved obscurity many productions of sterling merit, which from various causes have as yet been but little appreciated. There are many poets of past ages whose names and works are either forgotten, or, still worse, only contemptuously remembered through the medium of some such shallow and prejudiced estimate as that of Pope, who, speaking of the alleged injudicious patronage of literature, exclaims
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pensioned Quarles;or that of Dryden, who, actuated in some cases by political or personal animosities, and taking unfair advantage of the changing taste of his time, has written down men of real genius, by pouring out a torrent of ridicule upon their almost only fault, that of an affected style,
and that, too, one which was common to almost all their contemporaries. So blindly has the public mind allowed itself to be carried away by the rash censures of eminent men, that but to name Quarles, or Crashaw, or Flatman, or Wither, as poets, would for a long period have been accounted ridiculous ; but this feeling is decaying, and if the reader will turn to the few specimens of their pens which the limits of this little work would allow, it is not too much to hope that a very different opinion will be entertained.
In admitting the productions of many writers of later date, regard has been had rather to their intrinsic merit, than to any consideration of the popularity already attained to by each. The same feeling has also led to the selection of a few pieces from authors not usually ranked as sacred poets ; for in many cases it is unquestionable that their productions on religious themes are as much superior to their others in execution as in subject-matter.
Of the Fugitive Pieces with which the work concludes, many will be found of a high degree of merit, and standing in no need of that species of popularity which their bearing the names of well-known writers would confer upon them. The majority have already appeared in the various volumes of the Saturday Magazine, and it is presumed that this attempt to present them in a more convenient shape will be favourably regarded.
Beaumont, Sir John, (b. 1584, d. 1628.)
A Dialogue between the World, a Pilgrim, and Virtue 77
Christ in the Cradle, in the Garden, and in his Passion 213
A Hymn on Meditation of the Day of Judgment 200
Donne, John, (b. 1573, d. 1631.)