« PreviousContinue »
The making of an anthology of any form of poetry is like the culling of a nosegay, a matter in which selection by color, form, and fragrance counts for much, and arrangement according to taste, prejudice, or caprice makes up the remainder. If this be not the method, it is likely to be that of the herbarium, in which appear both flowers and weeds with labelled completeness, in substance dull, in order categorical. It is too much to expect that the disadvantages attending these usual methods have been wholly avoided in the following pages. Every collection of poetry must be made on a plan primarily subjective, and some one will always be found to disapprove, to wonder at the omission of a favorite, or to criticise the editor's eccentricity of judgment. I accept with frankness all responsibility on this score, but hope that a diligent endeavor to become acquainted with the whole field of Elizabethan lyric verse, even in its humbler productions, together with the exercise of a conservative judgment in choice, may have accomplished somewhat in toning any too emphatic an accentuation of the personal note.
Employing the word Elizabethan in a broad sense and that usually accepted, this collection aims to cover the half century from the publication of The Paradise of Dainty Devises, 1576, to the death of John Fletcher, 1625. The selections have been drawn from the works of individual authors, from "novels," plays, and masques, and from the poetical miscellanies, song-books, and sonnet sequences of that age. Each selection is given entire and by preference in the earliest form in which it received the supervision of the author. Each poem, moreover, is referred to its earliest appearance in manuscript or print and to its probable date of writing; and these facts are noted in a heading above the title. Later versions and variant readings are occasionally preferred, authority for both of which will be found in the notes. An order approximately chronological is maintained, that the collection may be representative as far as consistent with a standard of high lyrical excellence.
Aside from numerous editions of Elizabethan poets and dramatists, many of the better collections and anthologies of English poetry have been consulted with reference to the notes and text, which latter has been collated with earlier editions where necessary. The editings and collections of Dyce, Collier, Hazlitt, Grosart, Arber, and others, although of unequal merit, together with the publications of the several literary societies, have of course been found indispensable; and extended use has been made of Mr. Bullen's various books of Elizabethan songs and lyrics, collections that have rendered accessible much poetry till recently locked away in rare contemporary volumes or still rarer manuscripts. It need scarcely be added that my many debts to previous editors will be found duly recorded in the Notes.
The introduction is concerned for the most part with two topics: (1) an account of the Elizabethan lyric of art in its nature, origin, and different modes, with comment on the authors and the literary tendencies involved; and (2) a consideration of the chief lyrical measures of the age from an organic as well as an historical point of view. The foreign relations of Elizabethan poetry which, in the lyric, were exemplified largely in the pastoral mode and in the fashion for sonneting and writing lyrics to be set to music, are presented mainly in the discussion of Italian forms like the madrigal and the sonnet. A full consideration of these relations and of the origins of English metres in a broader sense, however interesting, is considered alien to the purpose of this book. It is hoped that the Notes may furnish such explanatory and biographical information as may not be readily accessible in the usual books of reference, and that the indices may guide the student, or the casual reader, in finding such assistance as he may reasonably demand. It was part of the original plan to furnish in an appendix a bibliography of the Elizabethan lyric; but the scope of this book was found unfitted to so extended an undertaking. I have endeavored, therefore, to supply this want by a Bibliographical Index to the Introduction and Notes, which contains a complete list of the sources and authorities on which this collection is based. No one recognizes more fully the utter futility of notes and glosses to supply taste or an appreciation of poetry, where taste or appreciation is wanting; and yet there seem to be times when the interpreter may well perform his services before the shrines of the oracles and translate — so far as translation is possible — the inspired language of “the literature of power,” as De Quincey calls it, into the humbler terms of knowledge.
It is my pleasure to record here my indebtedness for the loan and use of books to the Harvard Library, the Library of Columbia College, and the Philadelphia Library. Private treasures of Marshall C. Lefferts, Esq., of New York, of Jacob Sulzberger, Esq., of Philadelphia, and of Dr. Horace Howard Furness too have been liberally at my disposal. Others to whom my acknowledgments are due are the Rev. Richard Hooper, of Didcot, England, Churton Collins, Esq., of London, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell of Philadelphia, Professor Gummere of Haverford College, and Professor Gayley of the University of California ; among my colleagues, Professor Lamberton and Dr. Gudeman. Lastly this book has been fortunate in the valuable and assiduous supervision of the general editors and in the cordial assistance in gathering and transcribing material which I have had at the hands of my more intimate colleagues of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Penniman, Mr. Homer Smith, and Mr. Quinn, Instructors in English.