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THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Agents THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON AND EDINBURGI
TOKYO, OSAKA, KYOTO
KARL W. HIERSEMANN
THE BAKER & TAYLOR COMPANY
SELECTED AND EDITED, WITH ILLUSTRATIVE AND
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND A BIBLIOGRAPHY
WALTER C. BRONSON, Litt.D.
Professor of English Literature, Brown University
This volume of American poems is intended especially for use in schools and colleges, although it is also adapted to the needs of the individual reader who wishes to become acquainted at first hand with the whole field of American poetry. In accordance with this purpose the poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the minor poetry of the nineteenth century are given some space; for the earlier periods of our poetical development deserve attention, if only for historical reasons, and the lesser poets of the age of Poe, Longfellow, and Lowell have their own significance and charm. More than half the book, however, is reserved for the greater poets of the nineteenth century. The space allotted to individual authors, nevertheless, is not determined wholly by poetical merit. Trumbull, Barlow, and Freneau, for example, are each given more pages than Holmes, not because they are better poets, but because their works are less accessible; indeed, the selections from Colonial and Revolutionary writers have in general been made full enough to meet the needs of most students and readers without resort to other books, while it is assumed that the selections from the greater poets will be supplemented by liberal reading in their complete works. Again, Poe has only one-fourth the space devoted to Longfellow, solely because his poetry is so limited in amount and range that it can be represented adequately in a few pages. A large majority of the selections are complete poems, including "Evangeline," “Snow-Bound,” and “The Vision of Sir Launfal.” In some cases it was necessary to print extracts; but the passages chosen are intelligible and interesting by themselves, and those from different parts of a long poem form a connected whole.
In the matter of texts I have been exceptionally fortunate in having at hand two such remarkable collections of Americana as the Harris Collection of American Poetry and the John Carter Brown Library. I have taken advantage of their resources to reprint, in full or in part, some rare works which have seldom or never been reprinted. Furthermore, all the seventeenth and eighteenth century poems in this volume, with a few exceptions, are carefully reproduced from first or early editions, not from reprints. The spelling, capitals, italics, etc., of these editions have been retained, because the interest of many of the poems is largely antiquarian; but typographical errors have been corrected, usually without note, and the varying styles in subheadings, stage-directions, etc., which have no particular significance, have been made uniform. The punctuation of the original editions, which is often misleading, has been modernized as an aid to getting the sense quickly and accurately; and for the same reason the long s, and the interchange of i and j and of u and y, have not been reproduced. In the poetry of the nineteenth century there was less occasion for the use of early editions; but I have included extracts from some rare volumes of minor poets and from Bryant's “Embargo,” and have reprinted entire the first form of “Snow-Bound” and the “Commemoration Ode.” Other early editions are utilized in the Notes.
The Notes follow the plan which has met with favor in my four volumes of English Poems. Biographies and criticisms by the editor are omitted, because it is assumed that the student will use some manual of the history of American literature in connection with the texts. The Notes include (1) the poet's theory of poetry when this can be given in his own words; (2) statements by the poet or his friends which throw light on the meaning of a poem, or give circumstances connected with the composition of it; (3) explanations of words, allusions, etc., which the student or reader may find obscure;