23 SEPTEMBER 1882, Page 17

SELECTIONS OF POETRY.* AranoLocazs are never wholly satisfactory, either to

com- piler or to critic. No editor probably has made a selection without some after-consciousness that he might have done the work better, and no reviewer with an adequate knowledge of his subject—the knowledge grounded upon love—is likely to sym- pathise wholly with the judgment that has prompted the insertion of some poems and the rejection of others. In any .collection brought together for a special object, we expect, of course, to find certain pieces. A book of sonnets that did not contain Blanco White's "Night and Death," or Wordsworth's' Upon Westminster Bridge," or the " Chapman's Homer" of Keats, would betray an utter incapacity on the part of the editor. Mr. Palgravea Goldcn, Treasury would be radically defective,. did it not contain "The Skylark" of Shelley and the immortal " Ode " of Wordsworth ; and it would have been unpar- donable if the compilers of Poet's Walk, which is designed for boys, and of these four little volumes of Poetry for the Young, had not included Cowper's " Loss of the Royal George " and Campbell's "Battle of the Baltic." There are poems almost as certain to appear in their proper places as. the sun is to rise in the heavens. We know where to look for them, and are rarely disappointed,—we might say, never, were it not that the exquisite Treasury, so justly called "Golden," does not hold, among its treasures that noblest of lyrics and purest of nuptial Bongs, the immortal Epithaimattort of Spenser.

Mr. Mowbray Morris's purpose in Poet's Walk (a name which will commend itself to Etoniaus, to whom the book is dedicated), is fully stated in an able and elaborately written preface. He thinks boys are made to hate English poetry at school as Byron learnt to hate Horace, by having imposed upon them as a task that which ought to prove the purest of pleasures. What, he justly asks, is likely to be the result, when a boy, for some breach of school discipline, is forced to transcribe long passages from Paradise Lost ? And he considers that it is better to leave English poetry alone altogether, as a branch of school educa- tion, rather than to force it upon a boy's attention as we force the poets of Greece and Rome :—

"Some boys," he writes, "no doubt, there are who have, as one may say, been.' cradled into poetry by wrong,' have survived the grim ordeal, and learnt at last to love the hand that has chastised them ; others, again, who have within them some dim and fleeting glimpses of the vision, if haply they are never fitted to lay hands upon the, faculty divine. But, broadly speaking, we shall not, perhaps, go far astray if we assume that all poetry, English, no less than Greek and Latin, is thrown by the sehool.boy penmen into one odious heap and labelled, 'Lessons.' And, indeed, how should it be otherwise ? Lessons they are, and lessons to him they have been since that fatal day when the sun was shining without, the breeze blowing, the birds singing, and within, a poor, puzzled child, was vainly striving to commit to memory, To be, or not to be ?' or, These are thy glorious works,- Parent of Good.' And still, as the years go on, it is the same. The moment English poetry begins to be viewed with suspicion as a pos- sible instrument of torture in any shape, then will Shakespeare and Milton, Scott and Wordsworth take their place in the boy's heart side by side with Homer and Horace, with a proposition of Euclid and an equation in algebra. There must, surely there must, be something rotten in the state' which can degrade the great spirits who have done so much to make us wiser and happier into so many sources or lamentation, and mourning, and woe

Unfortunately, this abuse of what 'Wordsworth calls "the first and last of all knowledge" does not always end when a boy leaves. school. There are examinations, either for honour or emolu- ment, in which English literature, represented by the poets, undergoes a kind of vivisection which drains it slowly of its

life. By this process, the Canterkwy Tales and the Paine Queene, the plays of Shakespeare and the epics of Milton, are turned aside from their original purpose of elevating and puri-

fying the mind, and made to serve as text-books of syntax and of grammar. The indignity offered to the poets is great, the advantage to students is doubtful, They learn to look at poetry prosaically, they "murder to dissect," and regard the divine imagination of a Spenser with the curiosity of the man of science who botanised upon his mother's grave. Happy the youth whose love of poetry survives the long hours of task- work spent in preparation for local or Civil-Service examine- -

* post's WerN; an Introductim 0 Bnylts/a Poetry, Mortbray Morrie. London : Remington and Co. Chosea and Arranged by Poetry fur the Young. A. Collection in Four Parts, intended for Use in Schools, and Colleges, and gradated to suit the Requirements of Public mementoes Booms. .London : Griffith and Ferran.

tions ! Study, no doubt, there must be, before the noblest of all arts will reveal its glory and its strength, but the love that prompts the study must be nurtured by other methods than those employed by the grammarian and the scholiast.

Mr. Morris can scarcely be said to break much new ground in the Poet's Walk although it has been his purpose to do so. We may note, indeed, some lines of divergence, in com- paring this selection with the Children's Treasury of Mr. Palgrave: That little volume is composed of lyric poetry, while Mr. Morris's anthology includes passages from the satires of Dryden, Pope, and Johnson, and from the plays of Shake- speare; but passages kilich as these formed the cream of the selections which, in the earlier years of the century, were published for the use of schools. Both of these editors, by the way, consider that their object differs from that of any previous compiler. Mr. Palgrave offers poetry for poetry's sake, and has endeavoured "to collect all songs, narratives, descriptions, or reflective pieces of a lyrical quality fit to give pleasure, high, pure, manly (and therefore lasting), to children in the stage between early childhood and. early youth; and no pieces which are not of this character." Mr. Morris, on the other hand, aims at hitting "the mean of boyhood, that time, so difficult to understand, so difficult to define, when the boy has neither thrown aside the frock of childhood, nor yet assumed the toga. of the man."

The youth who has reached the age suggested by Mr. Morris may object to be classed with children, but apart from Mr. Palgrave's title, and, omitting, perhaps, some half.dozen pieces, the Children's Treasury of Lyrical Poetry seems to us fairly to accomplish the design of Mr. Morris ; and it includes several poems which, in our judgment, he has rejected for others of less worth. We say this, however, with some hesita- tion, for Mr. Palgrave's collection for children is by no means so entirely satisfactory as his Golden Treasury. His standard is "merit as poetry," and on the strength of it, we suppose, he omits "Alexander's Feast ;" but if so, it is surely not merit as poetry, but merit of another order, that justifies the insertion of " John Gilpin." We are not reviewing Mr. Palgrave's volume, and have, perhaps, said too much about it, yet it Was difficult to avoid, comparing selections which, if not wholly alike in purpose, agree so nearly in the end attained. The two books comprise nearly all the shorter pieces of English verse likely to attract young readers, but neither of them is entirely satisfactory alone.

The collection, in four separate parts, entitled, Poetry for the Young, appears to be intended for teachers, as much as for children. It is hoped that the publication will induce teachers in elementary schools to take up English literature as an extra subject more frequently than has hitherto been their practice, and. the anthology is said to contain all that is necessary to train children to fulfil the requirements of the " Standards," according to the "Proposals" recently presented to Parliament. The first part includes a number of charming verselets by Mrs. Alexander, Mary Hewitt, Jane Taylor, Mrs, Hawtrey, and other writers whose songs find no place in the Poet's Walk or the Children's Treasury.

In the second, third, and fourth series, the editor flies at higher game, while marking against each title the " Standard " for which he deems it suitable. He has done well, considering the design of hie publication, to include several popular poems which, if not highly poetical, appeal strongly to the feelings of young readers. Here are several patriotic pieces, for example including the " Rule, Britannia," of Thomson ; the "Tom Bowling " of Dibdin ; the buoyant lines on The Sea," by that inveterate landsman, Barry Cornwall ; Hood's "Song of the Shirt," and "Somebody's Darling," by Mrs. Lacoste. It was, if we remember rightly, in the days of the American Civil War that "Somebody's Darling" appeared in the newspapers, and by its simple pathos touched the hearts of people who do not care for poetry. Probably, hacd, it been more poetical, it would not have been admired so much. A highly critical editor might reject a piece like this, and could give sound reasons for doing so ; but the young reader will find pleasure in it, notwithstanding, as indeed he will do in many of the tender verses of Longfellow, whose song adapts itself remarkably to the heart and ear of childhood and" youth.

The editor of Poetry for the Young writes in his preface of " the objectionable practice of teaching fragments of the Deserted Village, it may be, or of Paradise Lost, or of the Lady of the Lake, and yet he encourages the practice in his text, where we find fragments of ilictruzion, of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and of Childe Harold. Having extracted Scott's wonderful description

of the Battle of Flodden, and his last charge of the French at Waterloo, there seems no logical reason for the omission of familiar passages from Goldsmith's well-known poem, or from Paradise Lost.

At the close of °mill part there are explanatory and biographical notes, to which, the editor observes, "children should not, under any circumstances, be permitted to have recourse." The restric- tion is ridiculous. The simple facts, geographical, historical, and biographical, contained in these notes have in them nothing esoteric. Why should not a child read, if he pleases, that Comma, is a seaport in the north-west of Spain, that Yarrow is one of the tributaries of the Tweed, that Mr. Browning is an illustrious living poet, or that Dr. Newman is a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church P Such information really seems very harmless, and suited to the understanding of children as well as to that of their teachers. Moreover, it is not quite clear how the collection can be placed in a child's hand without the risk lest in an unguarded moment his eye should glance over these terrible notes. And the danger will be all the greater, if he is told that he cannot be allowed to look at them "under any cir- cumstances," In conclusion, we may observe that to entitle Wordsworth's incomparable poem,—

" Three years she grew in sun and shower,"

"Blighted in the Bud," is a sign of critical incapacity not easily to be surpassed, uulesa it be by the publication without comment of a poem in modern verse as the genuine work of Chaucer. It will suffice to give the first stanza, and we may add before quoting it that this is the only poem in the selection to which the name of Chaucer is affited

"All day the low-hung clouds have dropped

Their garnered fullness down; All day that soft, grey mist bath wrapped Hill; valley, grove, and town. There has not been a sound to.day To break the calm of nature, Nor motion, I might almost say,

Of life or living creature,—

Of waving bough, or warbling bird, Or cattle faintly lowing; I could have half believed I heard

The leaves and blossoms growing."

The editor, it will be seen, is not always discriminating, but his little volumes, formed from the vast storehouse of English poetry, supply delightful reading. Less exclusive and more copious than the Poet's Walk, it is possible they may please young readers better. The youth advancing to manhood is likely to prefer Mr. Morris's 'compact and. beautifully printed selection.