A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American

By Louis Untermeyer | Go to book overview

IN PRAISE OF POETRY

Poetry is the music of the soul; and, above all, of great and feeling souls. -- VOLTAIRE

Now therein of all sciences is our poet the monarch. For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it. Nay, he doth, as if your journey should lie through a fair vineyard, at the very first give you a cluster of grapes, that full of that taste you may long to pass further. He cometh to you with words set in delightful proportion . . . and with a tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney-corner. -- SIR PHILIP SIDNEY

Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth by calling imagination to the help of reason. . . . The essence of poetry is invention, such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights. -- SAMUEL JOHNSON

The poet is the rock of defence for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of differences of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs; in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed, the poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. -- WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

The poet brings the whole soul of man into activity. . . . He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each faculty into each other by that synthetic and magical power to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of Imagination.

-- SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself. He who has a contempt for poetry cannot have much respect for himself or anything else. . . . Poetry is that fine particle within us that expands, rarefies, refines, raises our whole being.

-- WILLIAM HAZLITT

Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the best minds. . . . A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. -- PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

-vii-

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A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • In Praise of Poetry vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xlvii
  • I - The Bible 1
  • II - Foundations of the English Spirit 61
  • III - The Popular Ballad 123
  • IV - Early Songs of Unknown Authorship 163
  • V - Toward the Golden Age 175
  • VI - Elizabethan Songs of Unknown Authorship 253
  • VII - William Shakespeare [1564-1616] 271
  • VIII - Anatomy of the World 319
  • IX - Gallants, Puritans, and Divines 389
  • X - The Rise and Fall of Elegance 503
  • XI - Pure Vision, Pure Song 595
  • XII - The Spirit of Revolution and Romance 633
  • XIII - Faith, Doubt, and Democracy 777
  • XIV - Challenge to Tradition 889
  • XV - The World of the Twentieth Century 1023
  • Acknowledgments 1229
  • Sources of Reference 1233
  • Index 1235
  • Index of First Lines 1265
  • A Note about the Author *
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