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THIS 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 is 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 fifth more matter than any similar publication, presenting over fifteen hundred selections, from more than four 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 collated 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 the significant title, “ Library,” 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. This policy has been followed with the more confidence, as every poem of the collection has taken its place in the book only after passing the cultured criticism of Mr. William Cullen Bryant. The book is not Mr. Bryant's compilation, nor is he responsible for the classification and arrangement of the poems, although, as he says in the very interesting "Introduction” which he has contributed, he has “used a' free hand, as