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in the special branch of art which now concerns us: a statue of Pheidias could find no room, and if it could would be inappropriate, in a cabinet of gems. Form is always as important in the true lyric, it is sometimes more important than the thought, and just because the verse should be so flawless, it now and then happens that a false note struck in such a poem mars the whole, while it would pass unnoticed in a more sustained work. Thus, no one thinking of 'Lycidas' is in any degree distressed at the line
And oh ye dolphins waft the hapless youth,
which a modern poet, master of melody, has called 'the only bad line which Milton ever wrote;' while
Then the might of England flushed
is like a fly in ointment, spoiling the whole of Campbell's Battle of the Baltic,' though indeed they are not the only blemishes even in that one poem.
The aim is to present in one volume the perfection of English lyrics, by whomsoever written between the dates selected. Wyatt heads the list, not because there were not a few excellent lyrists earlier than he, but because no earlier poems than
his can be written in modern spelling without sacrifice of rhythm and rime, and it is desired that the book should be 'in a tongue understanded of the people.' No living authors are included, and none who have died within the second half of this century. We cannot yet judge them fairly; the living exercise too great a spell over us by their presence; for those but recently gone our tears, as St. Leo said of the Magdalen, have woven a veil which prevents our discriminating what they are who are called up before us.
Odes, properly so called, are excluded; as are all narrative, didactic, and ballad poems. Nor are true lyrics included which will not stand alone. Thus a beautiful song in 'The Lady of the Lake' finds no place because a line in it is unintelligible apart from the narrative in which it is imbedded. Nor, for the same reason, are extracts given from longer poems.
It is too much to hope that any selection will satisfy all readers, some of whom will no doubt miss favourites, which even if known by heart cannot be read too often :
As for some dear familiar strain,
But the reason for the exclusion of most of these will probably be found in the canons of lyric already laid down.
The Editor's best thanks are due to Mr. E. W. Gosse, Mr. Austin Dobson, and Mr. W. J. Linton, for valuable aid and suggestions.
THE LOVER PRAISETH THE BEAUTY OF
HIS LADY'S HAND.
SIR THOMAS WYATT,
My life thou dost restrain.
O fingers slight!
So long, so small, so round;
And yet a bone
Most cruel in my wound.
With lilies white
And roses bright
Doth strain thy colour fair;