« ZurückWeiter »
ENGLISH POETRY AND PROSE
SELECTED AND EDITED
ALPHONSO GERALD NEWCOMER
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH IN THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY
ALICE E. ANDREWS
TEACHER OF ENGLISH IN THE CLEVELAND HIGH SCHOOL, ST. PAUL
SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY
This book was undertaken in response to the desire, expressed by many teachers, for a large body of standard English literature in an accessible, compact form, to accompany and supplement the manuals of literary history in use. As the project gradually shaped itself in the editors' hands, it took on something like the following threefold purpose:
First, to include, as far as possible, those classics of our literature—the ballads, elegies, and odes, the L'Allegros and Deserted Villages—which afford the staple of school instruction and with which classes in English must be supplied.
Second, to supplement these with a sufficient number of selections from every period of our literature to provide a perspective and make the volume fairly representative from a historical point of view.
Third, to go somewhat outside of the beaten track, though keeping still to standard literature, and make a liberal addition of selections, especially from the drama and prose, to enliven the collection and widen its human interest.
This comprehensive character is indicated by the title of the volume. A somewhat unusual feature is the inclusion of both poetry and prose. The two forms have not been indiscriminately mingled, but they have been deliberately set side by side in the belief that both will gain by their conjunction. It is scarcely to be denied that at the present time a volume made up wholly of verse gives the impression of a collection of enshrined “classics," meant either to be admired from a distance or studied with tedious minuteness. On the other hand, a miscellaneous collection of unrelieved prose lacks attractiveness by seeming to lack emotional appeal. Putting them together will not only afford the relief of variety, but should lead to a better understanding of both by showing that the difference between them is often more formal than real—that poetry, with all its concern for form, is primarily the medium of the simplest truth and feeling, and that prose, though by preference pedestrian, may at times both soar and sing.
In making the selections, it was considered best to exclude the modern novel, a form of literature that scarcely lends itself to selection at all. With this exception, pretty much the whole field has been covered, though it is not maintained that every important man or movement has been represented. The Restoration drama can, for obvious reasons, have no place in these pages; nor should the omissions be regarded with surprise if a volume of confessedly rather elementary purpose fails to include such men as Burton, Browne, Locke, and Newton, voyagers “on strange seas of thought, alone.” The endeavor was simply to secure the widest representation consistent with the intended service of the book and compatible with a due regard for both amount and proportion. Inconclusive fragments have been studiously avoided. Here and there, where a specimen of form only was desiredof Surrey's blank verse, for example, or of Thomson's Spenserian manner—this principle has not been adhered to. But apart from such exceptional cases, even
where wholes could not be given, enough has still been given, not only to set the reader going, but to take him somewhere.
The order is chronological, and the division into periods corresponds in general to the division adopted by the senior editor in his history of English Literature. The adherence to chronology, however, has not been rigid, either in the order of Dames or in the order of selections under the names. Prose has usually been separated from verse, and minor poems have often been placed together. In fact, wherever an unpleasant juxtaposition could be avoided, or a more effective grouping secured, there has been no hesitation to exercise some freedom. The dates of the various selections will in most instances be found in the table of contents.
Selections from Old English, from Latin, and from Middle English down to Chaucer, are given in translation. After Chaucer, the original text is followed, but spelling and punctuation are modernized—a course which is almost necessary if a writer like Mandeville is to be read with any ease, and which has every reason to support it in writers of a much later date. To this rule the customary exceptions in poetry are made: Chaucer, Langland, the Ballads, Everyman, and Spenser's artificially archaic Faërie Queene, are kept in the original form. Much care has been bestowed upon the text. It is really a matter of somewhat more than curiosity whether, in the poet's fancy, the lowing herd wind over the lea, or winds over the lea, and he ought by all means to be reported faithfully. At the same time it has seemed equally important in a few instances to correct a manifest and misleading error or to remove an extremely offensive epithet. The instances of such changes are perhaps not a dozen in all.
The notes have been placed at the bottom of the page, primarily for convenience, but also to insure brevity. It will be observed that they serve other purposes than those of a mere glossary. Every care has been taken to make them pertinent and really explanatory, and to avoid unduly distracting the reader's attention or affronting his intelligence. It seemed fair to assume, on the reader's part, the possession of a dictionary and a Bible, and some elementary knowledge of classical mythology. It is altogether too common an editorial mistake to regard every capital letter as a signal for a note. Allusions to matters of very slight relevancy are purposely left unexplained. For example, in such an isolated poem as Deor's Lament, it seemed more to the purpose, at least of the present volume, to give a bit of literary comment than to weight down the poem with notes on events in remote Germanic tradition. On the other hand, wherever a note, of whatever nature, seemed absolutely demanded, no pains have been spared to provide it. In the case of selections hitherto not specially edited, this frequently involved great labor, and the editors learned how much easier it is to make an anthology than to equip it for intelligent use.* Details of biography, as well as the larger matters of literary history and criticism, have necessarily been left to the manuals of literary history. For the convenience of those who use the English Literature referred to above, exact page references to that volume have sometimes been added. Finally, there are frequent cross-references within the present volume, and these may be
* For instance, one note is still fresh in mind the next to the last in the book-which required the reading of nearly two volumes of Stevenson, to say nothing of the labor spent in searching on the wrong track. Even in such a classic as Everyman, there remained obscurities to be cleared up, and apparently no editor had yet hit upon the explanation of so simple a matter as to “take my tappe in my lappe" (page 93, line 801), the meaning of which the editors guessed and subsequently verified by Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary. The word “kenns,
as used by Scott' in oid Mortality (see page 504), is not recorded in any of the standard dictionaries, including Jamieson. These examples, which are typical of many others, will serve to show that the preparation of the notes, slight as they may seem, has been no perfunctory or uncritical task.
further extended by the use of the index to the notes. It is believed that this index will be found extremely useful.
Manifestly many advantages are to be derived from having so much material in a single volume. The book may even be used as a source-book for the study of English history, in a liberal interpretation of that subject. From the Anglo-Saxon period, for example, a sufficient diversity of literature is presented to give body and reality to that far-away time. In a later period, the constantly recurring terms and manners of feudalism and chivalry make that age also historically real, and the archaism of Spenser, as the age passes away, does not appear such a detached, unintelligible phenomenon. The concentric "spheres” of the old Ptolemaic astronomy may be seen revolving about this earth as a centre through all the poetry down to Milton, when science steps in with its inexorable logic and man is constrained to take a humbler view of his station in the universe. On the other. hand, Utopia may change to Arcadia, and Arcadia to El Dorado, but the dream itself refuses to die. A juster conception of the writers themselves is likewise made possible. Shakespeare is removed from his position of lonely grandeur. Milton, so fallen on evil days, finds ample justification for his poetic complaint in the graphic prose descriptions of Pepys and Evelyn. Johnson is humanized by being presented as the friend of Boswell.
Again, in the detailed study of the literature there is the immense advantage of often having at hand, where each student can see it for himself, the source of an allusion, the echo of a sentiment, or the different play of diverse imaginations about the same theme. One passage of Milton can be set by the side of a similar passage in Caedmon, another can be paralleled in Marlowe, a third in Spenser. The story of the last fight of The Revenge can be read first in Raleigh's circumstantial narrative and then in Tennyson's martial ode. Malory's Arthur reappears in Tennyson, Scott's Bonny Dundee in Macaulay's account of the battle of Killiecrankie. If the line in Browning's Saul about the "locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher” reminds us of an incident in the life of John the Baptist, we turn with interest to Wyclif's curious version of that story. An unusual word, "brede," occurring in one of Keats's odes, is found to have been used in an ode by Collins, and its literary genealogy can scarcely be doubted. The paths of Addison and Carlyle lie far apart, and yet both appear to have been indebted, the one for a quaint fancy, the other for a striking figure, to the same record of a shipwreck on the frozen shores of Nova Zembla more than three centuries ago. By the discerning teacher these cross-references can be multiplied indefinitely, and for nearly every cross-reference there will be a decided gain in understanding and appreciation. The student will see what a network a national literature is, and get some conception of the ever increasing enjoyment that attends upon an increasing familiarity with it.
Indeed, it has been one of the chief pleasures in making this compilation to feel that along with the so-called English classics, of finished form and universal content, so much was being gathered which, though less familiar, is scarcely less worthy, and frequently of a more intimate human appeal. It may not be desirable to teach all this matter, nor would it be possible at any one time or place. The important thing is to have it in hand. The teacher is thus given a real freedom of choice and enabled to teach literature, as it should be taught, with the personal touch. For the student, too, there will always remain some tracts of terra incognita, with the delight of wandering, of his own free will, along unfrequented paths. To share, for example, in the early Northmen's vague terror of nickers and jotuns, to listen to the words of Alfred the Great, to observe the concern of the good bishop of Tarente for the spiritual welfare of the nuns under his charge, to stand by at the birth of the first printed English book and note the aged Caxton's enthusiasm in spite of