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The Poets, by the very necessity of their voca. tion, are the closest students of language in any literature. They are the most exacting in their demands upon the resources of words, and the most careful of discriminations in their use. “Easy writing 's curst hard reading,” said an English wit; but for the poet there is no such thing as easy writing. He must " wreak thought upon expression." The veteran Bryant wrote:
“ Thou who wouldst wear the name
And clothe in words of flame
But gather all thy powers," etc.
The prose-writer should, and the great one does, carefully weigh, select, and place his words; but the Poet must,-if he is to make any least claim to the title. Therefore poetical quotations are, as a rule, more skillfully apt to the purpose of expressing shades of thought than are the more natural and therefore usually less careful phrases of prose, even when conveying “thoughts that shall live within the general mind.” A gathering of poetical quotations is valuable
in two ways.
It may afford the most vivid and significant representation of a thought or feeling for some specific occasion, or it will open to the reader an alluring field for wandering at willor even aimlessly, yet with ever-fresh interest. In case one seeks some particular phrase, some familiar quotation which is vaguely remembered but desired for more accurate use, it may easily be that the phrase sought is not among the assemblage of notable fragments in this volume, but in its own place, embodied in the poem where it had its origin, in some of the other volumes of this work. In this volume, however, will be found some 2,700 memorable passages from poems not included in the others. They are alphabetically arranged under more than 300 appropriate titles, for general topics; and the “Index of Topics will show cross-references to other and kindred themes, so that if desired a subject may be pursued into thoughts of related interest.
It is hoped that this gathering up of admirable fragments that should not be lost to familiar use, even though their original sources could find no proper place in the plan of the work at large, will prove to be helpfully suggestive, whether to the seeker for specific thoughts and expressions or to the general appreciative reader.