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NEW CLASS-BOOK OF ENGLISH POETRY.
(NELSON'S SCHOOL SERIES)
Ir is important that the process of acquiring the art of readingnot as a mechanical art merely, but as an accomplishment--should be rendered to the pupil as pleasing and attractive as possible. It is necessary, also, that his reading should be of such a nature as imperceptibly to impress him with the sense of a true and beautiful style; thus becoming to him a source of intellectual pleasure, by gratifying a taste which it serves to create And, more obviously still, it is of the utmost consequence in educational work, that the heart should be addressed as well as the intellect, and that the development of the moral affections should go on together with the culture of the mind.
It has therefore been the aim of the Editor of this volume to present such a Selection as will make the work a really useful auxiliary to the teacher who recognises the importance of the principles referred to, and is desirous of carrying them into effect in the daily work of the school.
Special attention is requested to the following admirable extract from a Lecture by Mr. Vernon Lushington :
ON LEARNING BY HEART.
TILL he has fairly tried it, I suspect a reader which the first breath of wind dispels. If does not know how much he would gain you could only fix that image, as the photofrom committing to memory passages of graphers do theirs, so beautifully, so perreal excellence; precisely because he does fectly! And you can do so! Learn it by not know how much he overlooks in merely heart, and it is yours for ever! reading. Learn one true poem by heart, I have said, a true poem; for naturally and see if you do not find it so Beauty men will choose to learn poetry--from the after beauty will reveal itself, in chosen beginning of time they have done so. To phrase, or happy music, or noble sugges- immortal verse the memory gives a willing, tion, otherwise undreamed of. It is like a joyous, and a lasting home. However, looking at one of Nature's wonders through some prose is poetical, is poetry, and altoa microscope. Again: how much in such gether worthy to be learned by heart; and a poem that you really did feel admirable the learning is not so very difficult. It is and lovely on a first reading, passes away, not difficult or toilsome to learn that which if you do not give it a further and much pleases us; and the labour, once given, is better reading !-passes away utterly, like forgotten, while the result remains. a sweet sound, or an image on the lake, Poems and noble extracts, whether of
verse or prose, once so reduced into pos- to all men; and though some poetry requires session and rendered truly our own, may particular knowledge and superior culture, be to us a daily pleasure;-better far than much, and that the noblest, needs only a whole library unused. They may come natural feeling and the light of common to us in our dull moments, to refresh us as experience: Such poetry, taken in modewith spring flowers; in our selfish musings, ration, followed with genuine good-will, to win us by pure delight from the tyranny shared in common, will be intelligible. and of foolish castle-building, self-congratula- delightful to most men who will take the tions, and mean anxieties. They may be with trouble to be.students at all, and ever more us in the work-shop, in the crowded streets, and more so. by the fireside; sometimes, perhaps, on Perhaps, also, there may be a fragment pleasant hill-sides, or by sounding shores; of truth in what Charles Lamb has said, noble friends and companions—our own! that any spouting “withers and blows upon never intrusive, ever at hand, coming at a fine passage;" that there is no enjoying our call !
it after it has been "pawed about by deShakspeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Tenny- clamatory boys and men.” But surely son,-the words of such men do not stale there is a reasonable habit of recitation as upon us, they do not grow old or cold.... well as an unreasonable one; there is no Further : though you are young now, some need of declamatory pawing. To abandon day you will be old. Some day you may all recitation, is to give up a custom which reach that time when a man lives in greater has given delight and instruction to all the part for memory and by memory. I can races of articulately speaking men.
If our imagine a chance renewal, chance visitation faces are set against vain display, and set of the words long remembered, long gar- towards rational enjoyment of one another, nered in the heart, and I think I see a each freely giving his best, and freely regleam of rare joy in the eyes of the old ceiving what his neighbour offers, we need
not fear that our social evenings will be For those, in particular, whose leisure marred by an occasional recitation, or that time is short, and precious as scant rations the fine passages will wither. And, moreto beleaguered men, I believe there could over, it is not for reciting's sake that I not be a better expenditure of time than de- chiefly recommend this most faithful form liberately giving an occasional hour-it re- of reading-learning by heart. quires no more--to committing to memory I come back, therefore, to this, that chosen passages from great authors. If the learning by heart is a good thing, and is mind were thus daily nourished with a few neglected amongst us. Why is it neglected ? choice words of the best English poets and Partly because of our indolence, but partly, writers; if the habit of learning by heart I take it, because we do not sufficiently were to become so general, that, as a matter consider that it is a good thing, and needs of course, any person presuming to be edu- to be taken in hand. We need to be recated amongst us might be expected to be minded of it: I here remind you. Like a equipped with a few good pieces,--I believe town-crier, ringing my bell, I would say to it would lead, far more than the mere you, Oyez, oyez! Lost, stolen, or strayed, sound of it suggests, to the diffusion of a good ancient practice—the good ancient the best kind of literature, and the right practice of learning by heart. Every finder appreciation of it, and men would not should be handsomely rewarded.”. long rest satisfied with knowing a few stock If any ask, “What shall I learn?” the pieces. ....
answer is, Do as you do with tunes-begin The only objection I can conceive to with what you sincerely like best, what what I have been saying is, that it may be you would most wish to remember, what said that a relish for higher literature be- you would most enjoy saying to yourself or longs only to the few; that it is the result repeating to another. You will soon find of cultivation; and that there is no use in the list inexhaustible. Then “keeping up” trying to create what must be in general is easy. Every one has spare ten minutes; only a fict ous interest. I do not ad
the problems of life is how to emniit that literature, even the higher litera- ploy them usefully. You may well spend ture, must belong to the few. Poetry is, in some in looking after and securing this the main, essentially catholic-addressed l good property you have won.
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