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This Dictionary of Poetical Quotations ought to be the best that has yet been compiled, partly because it is the latest, and partly because it covers more ground and embraces more poets than any other. It may interest the reader to know that the two earliest collections of the kind were published in the last year of the sixteenth century; that the extracts in the first (if it were the first) — “ Belvidere, or the Garden of the Muses "— were restricted to one line each, and chiefly to contemporary poets, and that the extracts in the second, — “England's Parnassus,” — while not so narrowly restricted, were also from contemporary poets, the only early poet represented therein being Lord Surry, who had been dead but fifty-three years. These collections, though made in the Golden Age of English Poetry, are dreary reading: one reason being that their worthy editors, Bodenham and Allot, were didactic dullards; another, that they failed to comprehend the greatness of the dramatic writing of their time. Five or six similar anthologies followed during the next century and a half, until at last the despised and neglected dramatists had ample justice done them. It was in “The British Muse," which purported to be edited by Thomas Hayward, Gent. Whether the historians of English literature have discovered who Hayward was, I am not scholar enough to know. I only know that they give William Oldys the credit of writing the preface, and that it is an excellent piece of work. He passes judgment upon the earlier anthologies, and, concerning most of them, remarks of one, that the book, bad as it is, suggests one good observation upon the use and advantage of such collections, which is that they may prove more successful in preserving the best parts of some authors than their works themselves. Pursuing this train of thought, Oldys states, in his quaint way, the necessity for such collections. “Hence we have long wanted a compiler, or reader-general for mankind, to digest whatever was most excellent (the flowers) in our poets, into the most commodious method for use and application ; a person void of all prejudice, who would take no author's character upon trust, but would deliberately review such of our poets as had seemed to expire in fame, rather through length of time, and the variation of our language, than want of merit; one who had not only intelligence to know what compositions of value our country had produced, but leisure, patience, and attention to go through a vast diversity of reading; with judgment to discern peculiar beauties amidst the obscurity of antiquated speech, and the great superfluity of matter that surrounds them, like stars in winter nights, with gloom and void: In fine, sagacity to discover the gross and innumerable errors of the press; fidelity, not to obtrude the officious alterations of an editor, under the pretence of restoring the sense of an author; and capacity to dispose a great variety of select readings under their proper heads: All which attributes, as they rarely meet in the same person, seem to account for our not having had one collection of this kind of any great merit and utility. It is, however, by the idea of these qualifications the compiler of this work hath endeavored to conduct himself. How well he has succeeded will appear from the following sheets." I have nothing to add to this, except that I agree with Oldys in regard to the qualifications necessary in an editor of poetic anthologies, and that they are largely possessed by the reader-general for mankind who has digested whatever is most exquisite in our poets into this Dictionary of Poetical Quotations.
I give this heavy weight from off my head,
Shaks. : Richard II. Act iv. Sc. 1. ABILITY.
I profess not talking : only this, Let each man do his best. 2
Shaks.: 1 Henry IV. Act v. Sc. 2. Who does the best his circumstance allows, Does well, acts nobly - angels could no more. 3
Young: Night Thoughts. Night ii. Line 91. ABSENCE.
What! keep a week away! Seven days and nights?
Shaks.: Othello. Act iii. Sc. 4.
It so falls out,
Shaks. : Much Ado. Act iv. Sc. 1.
George Linley: Song. Though Lost to Sight.
Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore,
Pope : Eloisa to A. Line 361.
Pope : Eloisa to A. Line 47. Of all affliction taught a lover yet 'Tis sure the hardest science to forget!
Pope : Eloisa to A. Line 189. Ye flowers that droop, forsaken by the spring; Ye birds that, left by summer, cease to sing; Ye trees that fade, when autumn heats remove, Say, is not absence death to those who love?
Pope : Autumn. Line 27. Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see, My heart untravell’d, fondly turns to thee; Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain, And drags at each remove a lengthening chain. 11
Goldsmith : Traveller. Line 7. O Love, if you were only here Beside me in this mellow light, Though all the bitter winds should blow, And all the ways be choked with snow, ”Twould be a true Arabian night! 12
T. B. Aldrich : Latakia. O last love! O first love! My love with the true heart, To think I have come to this your home, And yet — we are apart! 13
Jean Ingelow : Sailing Beyond Seas. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 14
Thomas Haynes Bayly: Isle of Beauty.
Oh! couldst thou but know
Moore : Lalla Rookh. V. P. of Khorassan. ABSTINENCE.
Against diseases here the strongest fence
Herrick : Aph. Abstinence.