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significant sense, religious poetry.
Thus this collection is not always directly, but always indirectly religious. Its aim is to present in a compend of fragments the gathered riches of our old religious poetry. It ranges from the dawn of British Literature to the year 1699. In the eighteenth century, religious poetry of the loftiest type almost died away from the literature of England. It has revived in the nineteenth, in some cases with more than its old splendour. But a completeness is given to this
volume, by the fact that its range is limited to the older times.
Nothing has been admitted that has not stood the test and strain of time. Four names however have been purposely omitted-Shakespeare, Milton, Herbert, and Vaughan. A word in explanation of this. There are some names in literature (the list is very small) so singularly great, that to extract from their writings is to mutilate them. Those great teachers who have been sent as the ministers of Truth and Insight, not to their own age merely, but to all Time, seem marred and lowered when their works are broken into fragments and extracts. This is specially true of the very greatest poets, and even more peculiarly true of a certain class, viz., the more intense and individual among them. Extracted passages from Dante, Milton, Herbert, and Wordsworth, are always unsatisfactory. We wish to see all that has ever been written by these masters. Not so with lesser men. There are many poets who have written one or two singularly noble poems, the rest of whose writing is comparatively valueless. It is from these that selections should be made. Extracts from Shakespeare and Milton, in this volume, would either require to be very long and very numerous, or they would be wholly inadequate. George Herbert (the deepest of all religious poets) would need to be inserted as a whole; and nearly the same thing is true of H. Vaughan. These four names are therefore excluded.
The arrangement of the poems is chronological, and the volume is divided into four sections. Without
following the recognised literary periods, indicated by the great epoch-forming names, as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, &c., (a principle of division not essential to a collection such as this, and which would of necessity reduce some periods to the compass of a very few years, and enlarge others to a disproportionate extent,) the poems are arranged as follows:Period first extends from the time of Richard Rolle (cir. 1340), an early English divine of whom little is known, but who was either an immediate predecessor or a contemporary of Chaucer, to that of James Wedderburn of Dundee (1500-1564). Period second begins with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, (151520-1546-7,) and ends with Dr. John Donne (15731631). Period third ranges from the times of Ben Jonson (1574-1637) to those of James Shirley (1594-1666); and Period fourth from Sir Thomas Browne, author of the "Religio Medici," &c., (1605-1682,) to John Norris, metaphysician and poet, (1657-1711.)
To readers who receive gladly these gifts from the old times, we promise a future volume, which will be gathered mainly from our own century; for these times also have their own peculiar music.