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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

. Introductory Note

THE AIM in these three volumes of English Poetry has been to give, as far as the limits of space allowed, a substantial representation of the most distinguished poets of England and America for the last five hundred years. Among previous anthologies an especially wide recognition has been given by the best judges to Francis Turner Palgrave’s “Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language,” first published in 1861; and it has been thought best to make that collection the nucleus of the present one. All the poems originally selected by Mr. Palgrave have, accordingly, been retained, with the exception of those by Milton and Burns, which appear in the Harvard Classics in the complete editions of the poetical works of these two authors.

The larger scale of this collection has made it possible to ignore the limitation of most anthologies to lyrical poems, and to include a considerable number of long narrative and didactic poems. Thus we have been able to give the Prologue to Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” the most vivid series of types of character to be found in any English poem; the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” one of the finest specimens of the beast fable; a large group of traditional ballads, including the almost epic “Gest of Robin Hood”; Pope’s “Essay on Man”; Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon”; Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel”; Keats’s “Eve of St. Agnes”; Shelley’s “Adonais”; Tennyson’s “Maud”; Longfellow’s “Evangeline”; and many others rarely found in mixed collections. All these poems are given, in accordance with the general practise in this series, in their entirety.

In the case of Chaucer and other older authors, and of poems in the Scottish dialect, the meanings of obsolete and rare words have been given in the foot-notes. The poems of each author will be found together; and the general arrangement is chronological.