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THE marked success of “A Library of Poetry and Song," as issued in
I the year 1870, showed that the work supplied a real popular need. Since the date of its publication, between seventy and eighty thousand copies of the book have been taken by the public, whose confidence in the name of Mr. Bryant, as its editor, has been borne out by the work itself.
Although its popular acceptability seems no whit diminished, in its original octavo form, the publishers have thought it worthy of a thorough revision, enlargement, and improvement. Accordingly, with Mr. Bryant's active co-operation, the work has undergone an entire reconstruction, both as to matter and form. About one fifth of the material of the former volume has been eliminated, and twice as much new matter added ; great pains having been taken to insure the correctness of the text with a view to making it a standard for reference, as well as to give an ample provision for general or special reading.
The book has been prepared with the aim of gathering into a single volume the largest practicable compilation of the best Poems of the English language, making it as nearly as possible the choicest and most complete general collection of Poetry yet published.
The name “Library," which has been given it, indicates the principle upon which the book has been made, namely: that it might serve as a book of reference; as a comprehensive exhibit of the history, growth, and condition of poetical literature; and, more especially, as a companion, at the will of its possessor, for the varying moods of the mind.
Necessarily limited in extent, it yet contains one quarter more matter than any similar publication, presenting nearly two thousand selections, from more than five hundred authors. It is believed that of the poetical writers acknowledged by the intelligent and cultivated to be great, none, whether English, Scotch, Irish, or American, will be found unrepresented in the volume; while many verses, of merit though not of fame, found in old books or caught out of the passing current of literature, have been here presented side by side with those more notable. And the chief object of the
collection --- to present an array of good poetry so widely representative and so varied in its tone as to offer an answering chord to every mood and phase of human feeling — has been carefully kept in view, both in the selection and the arrangement of its contents. So that, in all senses, the realization of its significant title has been an objective point.
In pursuance of this plan, the highest standard of literary criticism has not been made the only test of worth for selection, since many poems have been included, which, though less perfect than others in form, have, by some power of touching the heart, gained and maintained a sure place in the popular esteem.
The enlargement and reconstruction of this work has entailed upon Mr. Bryant much labor, in conscientious and thorough revision of all the material, --- cancelling, inserting, suggesting, even copying out with his own hand many poems not readily attainable except from his private library, --in short, giving the work not only the sanction of his widely honored name, but also the genuine influence of his fine poetic sense, his unquestioned taste, his broad and scholarly acquaintance with literature. To assist him, especially in the principal gathering and classification of the material, the Publishers, with his concurrence, obtained the services of Mr. Edward H. Knight, of Washington, D. C., of whose good judgment, singular industry, and peculiar talent for systematization they had availed themselves in the first preparation of the original work. The work has also had the advantage of the nice critical discrimination of Professor Robert R. Raymond, of Brooklyn, N. Y., who has made it his care to revise all the copy before sending it to the printers, to correct erroneous readings perpetuated from careless editions of various authors, to perfect the progressive shading of the arrangement of the poems within their several classifications, and to add the numberless and nameless final touches of the literary artist.
The Publishers desire to return their cordial thanks for the courtesy freely extended to them, by which many copyrighted American poems have been allowed to appear in this collection. In regard to a large number of them, permission has been accorded by the authors themselves ; other poems, having been gathered as waifs and strays, have been necessarily used without especial authority, and where due credit is not given, or where the authorship may have been erroneously ascribed, future editions will afford opportunity for the correction, which will be gladly made. Particular acknowledgments are offered to Messrs. D. Appleton & Co. for extracts from the works of Fitz-Greene Halleck, and from the poems of William Cullen Bryant; to Messrs. Harper and Brothers for poems of Charles G. Halpine and Will Carleton; to Messrs. J. B. Lippincott & Co. for quotations from the writings of T. Buchanan Read; to Messrs. Charles Scribner & Co. for extracts
from Dr. J. G. Holland's poems; and more especially to the house of Messrs. James R. Osgood & Co., -- whose good taste, liberality, and intelligent enterprise have given them an unequalled list of American poetical writers, comprising many of the most eminent poets of the land, — for their courtesy in the liberal extracts granted from the writings of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Florence Percy, John Godfrey Saxe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edmund Clarence Stedman, Bayard Taylor, Bret Harte, John Townsend Trowbridge, Mrs. Celia Thaxter, John Greenleaf Whittier, and others.
In addition to the above special acknowledgments, readers will see in the “Index of Authors” references enabling them to find the publishers of the entire works of any American writer to whom their attention has been called by any fragment or poem printed in this volume. This “ Library” contains specimens of many styles, and it is believed that, so far from preventing the purchase of special authors, it serves to draw attention to their merits; and the courtesy of their publishers in granting the use of some of their poems here will find ample and practical recognition.