Page images
PDF
EPUB

the more gentle motion of lesser streams; of farreaching straths and lonely moors; of cultivated fields, plains, and valleys-all so full of stirring and endearing associations, past and present.

Thus the range of subjects is comprehensive and their treatment diversified. The editor fondly cherishes the hope that many of his numerous selections will be found to contain power, originality, deep insight into the springs of human thought, and vivid representation of objective and subjective realities that hold the reading world by a charm-special characteristics of our national poets. He indulges the hope that a great many of the pieces will ultimately be found to bear the indelible stamp of immortality.

He may further be allowed to say, that the fact -for which there is substantial ground-that in these years, these annual volumes have been diligently perused by the rising generation, the poetry in them having caught the ear, and touched the heart of youth (thereby influencing them for good in awakening latent talent, and encouraging laudable ambition), has been to the Editor a gratification, encouragement, and stimulus-an impetus and inspiration toward the time when a love of literature for its own sake will supplant lower pleasures, and usher in the era when higher and purer forms of intellectual culture shall engage man's thoughts and absorb his attention.

He who rises by the persistent cultivation of the powers with which he is endowed, and whose aim is to use these for the elevation of the race, and the consequent good of mankind, becomes a benefactor of his species, and attains to a high position among his fellows: for, after all, mind is the true measure and standard of man. It is in the ratio of our influence for good, by word and deed among our fellows, that we become truly noble. It must be borne in mind that the measure of a well spent life lies less in

length of years than in noble acts and deeds; they are man's greatest powers of kindness and love. What else can truly dignify humanity?

He who writes with a consciousness that he possesses in some degree the power to produce something new and true for the use, or it may be the pleasure of his fellows-true to humanity, and to nature

has not lived in vain: and he who possesses the ability to touch the heart, and influence human life by the power of his prose, the rhythm of his poetry, or the pathos of his songs, is richly endowed, and for the manner of its use he is responsible. In forming an estimate of poetry, we should bear in mind that it contains the cream of a peoples thought.

Authors of the best type entertain their readers with their highest, best, purest thoughts, couched in their choicest language, and seem only to write when in their highest moods- their aim being moral elevation, simple grandeur, and personal purity of aim. No base metal is permitted, all is as pure gold as its author can present. It is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds. revealing what is fair, and bright, and beautiful in feeling, and imagination and thought.

Such

writings help to wile away many a languid hour, strengthen good resolution, fortify against temptation, lift the mind above its common level, infuse elevated ideas, draw the soul from Nature up to Nature's God, thus imparting lofty desires and aspirations, elevating the moral being, purifying the springs of action, and ennobling our better nature.

The influence exerted by this class of literature is past computation; for our intercourse with those we never saw, through the written page, is often more intimate and close than it is with our dearest friends; hence the necessity of being rigidly severe in our selection of authors. Here the choicest companion

ship may be attained, and we may obtain what fellowship and rank we desire, no matter how high. By our nobility of association in the kingdom of letters, our own inherent nobility will assuredly be tested. Here we have at command, the fellowship of the best and highest of the Kings and Queens and nobility of literature-the companionship, in our quiet hours, of the good and the great of all generations, assimilating ourselves to them-if we choose-in all that is truly great and good.

There is a beautiful aggressiveness in the poetic spirit. It is vigorous and expanding in its contagion. Where e'er it comes, if the spark exist, it kindles into flame, consuming the dross, and leaving the pure ore. Poetry is thus like the flowing river carrying its fertilizing influences on its bosom.

Poets of this class entertain us with their choicest viands; they admit us to their sanctum, and treat us sumptuously; thus there is mutual contact, and the entertained are permanently benefited and mentally enriched.

The kingdom of letters comprehends all others. It takes cognisance of all human intelligence in the whole circle of its manifestations and activities, and is without limit. In this kingdom are found all the greatest of human kind; here they meet as one common brotherhood. In this realm there is but one country-that of genius, and one feast-that of intellectual culture and expansion. Here mind is

the true measure of the man, and the illustrious writers of all nations shake hands as brethren wearing the badge of that fraternity, the literature of which fertilises and enriches human kind. This forms the true aristocracy, and the reader's inherent nobility of spirit will be measured by the depth of his sympathies in this direction. All peoples are justly proud of their literature, and every work which

exhibits virility is now welcomed from whatever nationality it emanates. A literary history will always develop into a national history, in which is found the evolutions of a people with all their passions, struggles, defects, and ultimate victories, so that the richest and the most original are they who reflect life the most widely in its infinite variety.

The editor of this series of "Modern Scottish Poets" cherishes the hope that his volumes will be acknowledged to have contributed their quota to this "feast of fat things." He is well aware that the Song Minstrelsy of Scotland, both in grandeur and variety, is acknowledged to bear favourable comparison even to the lyric poets of Greece, so long considered the masters of Lyric muse. This reputation Mr Edwards has endeavoured to maintain. How far he has succeeded is not for him to say. This much, however, he can say, that it has been his aim throughout that nothing find a place in these pages tinged even in the faintest degree with thought and sentiment of a lower level than is portrayed in this essay. He has endeavoured to gather together a representative body of Scottish song, some of which, he trusts, may be considered classical. It has been his constant aim that every piece bear unmistakably the "guinea stamp," if not in a literary, at least in its higher moral bearings. It has been his aim that every true lover of our native minstrelsy will find that in these volumes the Scotch lyre has been fairly represented, alike in the old Doric, and in the more modern strains of present-day writers.

There but remains to the Editor the pleasant task of offering his sincere and grateful thanks to each of his contributors whose original productions grace the pages of his series, and to other authors and their publishers, by whose permission many valued copyright pieces are added, as well as to numerous friends

who have so heartily aided him with material for the character sketches in his picture gallery of poets, and in numerous other ways afforded facilities to him during his sixteen years' labour in the preparation of this, our most extensive anthology of Scottish song.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »