Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.
I have often observed that among travellers there exists a kind of free-masonry. To have visited the same scenes is a bond of sympathy between those who have no other point of contact. A vague interest surrounds the man whom we have met in a foreign land, and even reserved and silent people become communicative when the conversation turns upon the countries they have seen.
I have always found the Poets my best travelling companions. They see many things that are invisible to common eyes. Like Orlando in the forest of Arden, they “hang odes on hawthorns and elegies on thistles.” They invest the landscape with a human feeling, and cast upon it
Even scenes unlovely in themselves become clothed in beauty when illuminated by the imagination, as faces in themselves not beautiful become so by the expression of thought and feeling.
This collection of Poems of Places has been made partly for the pleasure of making it, and partly for the pleasure I hope it may give to those who shall read its pages. It is the voice of the Poets expressing their delight in the scenes of nature, and, like the song of birds, surrounding the earth with music. For myself, I confess that these poems have an indescribable charm, as showing how the affections of men have gone forth to their favorite haunts, and consecrated them forever.
Great is the love of English poets for rural and secluded places. Greater still their love of rivers. In Drayton’s Poly-Olbion the roar of rivers is almost deafening; and if more of them do not run through the pages of this work, it is from fear of changing it into a morass, which, however beautiful with flowers and flags, might be an unsafe footing for the wayfarer.
Of one or two names I have been a little doubtful, not finding them in any map or gazetteer. They may be only pseudonymes. But doubtless the poets had some place in mind as they wrote, and the beauty of the verses must be my apology for inserting them.
I remember to have read in some book of the law, that, “if a man’s land is not surrounded by any actual fence, the law encircles it with an imaginary enclosure, to pass which is to break and enter his close.” In this work I fear the Poets will regard me as a great trespasser. I certainly have broken and entered their close; but as I have done it with no evil intent, I trust they will pardon me.
The volumes now published will be followed by others of a like character, descriptive of other countries, till the “Voyage round the World” sketched by Mr. Montgomery in the poem which stands as Prelude, shall be brought to a safe and happy end.