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Tue 'rise and progress of English poetry form one of the most delightful and mstructive chapters in the intellectual history of the world. We trace its glimmering dawn in the ballads of the early minstrels, its brilliant morning in the Canterbury Tales, and its rich and bold development in the literature of the age of Elizabeth, in which British genius reached an elevation unparalleled in the history of mankind. Bacon and Hoes:-Ls and Coxa, BARROW and TAYLOR and Hooxsn, RALEIGH and SELDEN and SIDNEY, SPENSER and SHAKSPEARE and Mnxrox, breathed in the same generation the air of England, and though they
did not all give a lyrical expression to thought and passion, they were nearly all‘
ooets, in the truest and highest sense of the word, and they formed with their C0l1it mporaries the most wonderful constellation of great men that ever adomed a nation or an age.
It is a remark ot" HUME, that when arts come to perfection in a state they necessarily decline, and seldom or never revive there. In England the decline of poetry, was as rapid as had been its rise, and in the long interregnum which succeeded the Restoration, scarcely a work was produced which nas an actual and enduring popularity. The artificial school introduced from the Continent by the followers of CHARLES the Second, attained its acme at last, however, in the polished numbers of Pope, and a gradual return to nature became visible in the productions of THOMSON and COWPER and Bonus, who ushered in the second great era of British literature, a general view of the poetical portion of which I have endeavoared to present in this volume.
There is at the present time, it seems to me, great need of a work of this sort_ The surveys and selections of English poetry from Cuaucr-:11 to the close of the last century, are numerous, and some of them, especially those of Cmurnsnn and HAZLITT, are made with singular candour and discernment. But there has hitherto been no extensive review of the Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, more rich and varied than that of all other periods, excepting only the golden one of
whonz a knowledge may sately be presumed I have deemed it in some instances