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THIS volume will, I hope, be found to contain nearly all the genuine poetry in our language fitted to please children,—of and from the age at which they have usually learned to read, in common with grown people. A collection on this plan has, I believe, never before been made, although the value of the principle seems clear.
The test applied, in every instance, in the work of selection, has been that of having actually pleased intelligent children; and my object has been to make a book which shall be to them no more nor less than a book of equally good poetry is to intelligent grown persons. The charm of such a book to the latter class of readers is rather increased than lessened by the surmised existence in it of an unknown amount of power, meaning and beauty, beyond that which is at once to be seen; and children will not like this volume the less because, though containing little or nothing which will not at once please and amuse them, it also contains much, the full
excellence of which they may not as yet be able to understand.
The application of the practical test above mentioned has excluded nearly all verse written expressly for children, and most of the poetry written about children for grown people. Hence, the absence of several well-known pieces, which some persons who examine this volume may be surprised at not finding in it.
I have taken the liberty of omitting portions of a few poems, which would else have been too long or otherwise unsuitable for the collection; and, in a very few instances, I have ventured to substitute a word or a phrase, when that of the author has made the piece in which it occurs unfit for children's reading. The abbreviations I have been compelled to make in the "Ancient Mariner," in order to bring that poem within the limits of this collection, are so considerable as to require particular mention and apology.
No translations have been inserted but such as, by their originality of style and modification of detail, are entitled to stand as original poems.