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This selection, which completes a series of three books intended for the children of elementary schovis, contains poetry suitable for children of from twelve to fifteen years of age (i.e. for the children in the classes corresponding with Standards IV., V., VI., and VII.). The selection may perhaps be found useful in schools of a higher grade, and some pieces are suitable for recitation by pupil-teachers.
The book does not pretend to be a selection of poetry of the highest degree of merit, though a high standard is aimed at. Such a book would be out of place in the hands of the children I have in view. My aims have been to induce a love of reading for its own sake by interesting and amusing the reader, to develope the imaginative and sympathetic faculties, and to cultivate the taste, whilst affording opportunities for the study of language and the enlargement of the child's vocabulary.
As far as my selection of the matter is concerned, I have felt it to be of the first importance to make my readers acquainted to some extent with the works of most of our greatest poets (to my great regret I have been unable to include anything of Mr. Tennyson's). I have also kept steadily in view the need for variety; for what will interest or touch one child, will not affect other. have therefore endeavoured to appeal to all tastes and feelings.
In presenting poetry to children it is too often forgotten that, for the full appreciation of poetry of a high order-say such a poem as Shelley's “To a Skylark”—much culture must be possessed by the reader. The knowledge, experience of life, power of imagination, and sympathies which an educated adult brings to bear upon such a poem in perusing it, are, of course, wanting in a child, and no amount of study can compensate for the lack of them.
This consideration, and another—that a child is not likely to be interested by what he cannot understand—have led me to omit some poems which are to be found in many selections for children. I have also rejected any poem which appeared to me to be artificial, strained, morbid, or of too highly imaginative a character, however good in other respects. I would here explain that I do not consider that, because a child fails to fully understand or to appreciate a poem, therefore he cannot derive benefit from it, though I am somewhat incredulous as to whether, as many think, its meaning and beauty will dawn upon him in after life; for this seems to me to presuppose that an impression, such as would be incompatible with an imperfect comprehension of the poem, has been made.
Poetry a little involved and obscure has its uses, for its mastery demands honest study. Such poetry may be found herein, and there will also, I hope, be found sufficient food for the imagination and sentiment, as well as poetry tending, indirectly, to form religious and moral impressions.
I am aware that extracts are viewed with disfavour by many, but I have thought it better that a child should form an acquaintance, however slight, with certain of the works of Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, Pope, Wordsworth, Scott, and Cowper (with a view to such acquaintance bearing fruit in after life), rather than that he should remain in total ignorance of them ; and so, my space being necessarily limited, I have been compelled to give extracts. The use of the extract, however, in such a selection as this, appears to me unavoidable, and, supposing that care be taken that the point of interest is reached within its limits, that is that the extract is intrinsically complete, it is difficult to perceive what serious objection can be urged against it.
I have in a few instances been compelled to abbreviate, and, in the case of some ballads and fables, to make slight verbal alterations.
In arranging the selection, which extends over a field stretching from Palgrave to Shakespeare, I have been unable to place the poems in chronological order, for it is essential to my purpose that they should be graduated in order of difficulty, and with regard to variety. Following this order, however, the modern poetry selected comes first.
At the end of the book are notes, in which I have endeavoured to explain every word or phrase occur. ring in the book likely to be unintelligible to the children for whom it is designed. These notes have cost me some trouble, but I shall be repaid if they fulfil my intention. I am far from being satisfied with the renderings I have given in the case of some verses and phrases of ambiguous meaning, but I have, I hope, generally succeeded in giving an explanation which will convey an intelligible idea to the child.
I would gratefully tender my thanks to Robert Browning, Esq., Lord Houghton, Francis Turner Palgrave, Esq., and Sir F. H. Doyle, for the permission granted to include herein certain of their poems; and would also thank Messrs. F. Warne and Co. for their courtesy in permitting me to publish certain poems of Dr. Mackay, of which they have the copyright.
The learning of poetry by memory is almost invariably made the subject of a “home-lesson.” Whether, however, the poetry be recited or read in class, I would advise that it be previously studied verse by verse with the notes. This having been done, upon the recitation, or reading in class of the poetry studied, the teacher would have an oppor