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But too often, indeed, the cold calculating spirit of Mammon will sear and harden what was once soft, and genial, and “apt of belief,” in the mind, and give to every thing but its bare value among the wiser children of this generation ; and thus faith will waver, and love of the unseen or unreal grow dead, or perhaps cease altogether. Still, however, where the imagination has in early life been rightly and not unduly affected by poetry, its influence more or less will be felt, even through years of mere worldly, selfish existence, and contend nobly for what is pure and worthy of belief.
The following selections have been made almost entirely from the writings of our chief poets,--an acquaintance with whom should be at once the pride and delight of every one who claims the name of English
In reading and studying their works, he will gradually learn to hold communion with the mighty minds of old,—and joy to say, as one of the last departed among them said of his predecessors :
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.
I live in long-past years ;
Partake their hopes and fears.” Shakspere, and Goldsmith, and Wordsworth, and Southey, are names which we cannot but honour and love; and, with the host of others whose voices, though dead, do yet speak to us, are worthy of far more than
mere trivial acquaintance. To know them thoroughly cannot, indeed, be effected by mere casual reading, but gradually; as the intercourse becomes more intimate, and the disciple, from being a mere passing acquaintance, becomes a loving friend.
A paragraph, nay a single verse of even a simple ballad, once committed to memory, may lie dormant in the mind for years, and yet at length awake and come back with all its original freshness upon the imagination. But one strain, it may be, will at first recur; but gentle thoughts and associations will one by one steal in, and the partial, or casual, or forgotten acquaintance will be renewed, and the poem of early years will be, as it were, the poet's hand of welcome and friendly greeting.
All young persons learn to repeat poetry with much greater facility than prose. The difficulty lies in choosing for each what is best suited to their taste and habit of mind; in making, in fact, the introduction a pleasant one.
Some prefer at first a simple ballad, or one, perhaps, of stirring and chivalrous spirit, as Chevy Chase; others incline rather to what is more humorous or lively, or descriptive. But each has his own taste; and if it be searched for in a kindly manner, the teacher will have but little difficulty in discovering it, and supplying it with nourishment, until the mere inclination becomes a decided appetite for what is good and excellent. The taste of a child's mind is not always to be ascertained by bare catechetical inquiries, but by careful watching
as the process of education advances,— education, that is, in its true sense, as distinguished from instruction.
To assist the teacher in this work is one of the objects of the following collection; and it is hoped that he will there find some extracts at least suited to all the various capacities and wants of his scholars. In Part II. will be found poems of a less easy
and simple style than those in the former part, as well as some few better adapted for the more advanced pupil.
To the more general reader, or student, it may haply afford some few kindred introductions, which will lead to a further acquaintance with, and a greater love and veneration for," the wise and good of ages past.”
B. G. J.