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THREE CENTURIES

OF

ENGLISH POETRY

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OF

ENGLISH POETRY

BEING

Selections from Chaucer to Herrick

WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES

BY

ROSALINE ORME MASSON

AND A GENERAL PREFACE BY

DAVID MASSON, M. A., LL.D.
Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Edinburgh

London

MACMILLAN AND CO.

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GENERAL PREFACE.

NEXT to the Newspaper, the Novel supplies for most people, in these busy days, the reading they want. It is a sign of wider culture, or of larger leisure, when the last new book," of whatever kind, is in request, and so a poem, a biography, a book of travels, a history, or even a speculative treatise, has its turn with the novel of highest recent repute. Amid such variety a reader may find plenty of excellent literary stimulus and entertainment without going beyond the present. It is to be hoped, however, that readings in our older English classics have not yet gone wholly out of fashion. Especially it is to be hoped that there are still lovers of that older English poesy of which Keats wrote in his ecstasy,

“ Has she not shown us all,
From the clear space of ether to the small
Breath of new buds unfolding, from the meaning
Of Jove's large eyebrow to the tender greening
Of April meadows? Here her altar shone,
Even in this Isle ; and who could paragon
The fervid choir that lifted up a noise
Of harmony to where it aye will poise
Its mighty self of convoluting sound,

Huge as a planet ?”
In strict prose this metrical estimate may need abatement.
Even in poetry there is no reason for depreciating the present
in comparison with the past. It is the business of criticism

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