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Hale's Longer English Poems studied in connection with the lives of the author which it represents will be found a useful supplement in the continuation of this work.
Selections have been made from Skeat's Specimens of English Literature, Shaw's Manual, Corson's Handbook of Anglo-Saxon, Brooke's Primer, Taine's English Literature, The Chautauqua Library of English Literature, Percy's Reliques, Chamber's Cyclopedia of English Literature, and other works.
W. B. H.
GOOD AND BAD BOOKS.
Out of the multitude of works which have been written in all languages only those which intelligent and educated people have considered worthy of being preserved merit the name of Literature. Such works, whether ancient or modern, become known as the "Classics." Munro's and Beadle's Dime Novels; the stories of the Fireside Companion; the novels of Mrs. Southworth and "Ouida," attract many readers who have never had an opportunity to become acquainted with good books. Accounts of murders and lawless intrigues where unprincipled and immoral men and women are made to appear heroic by their boldness and power cannot fail
to exercise a depraving influence upon the mind of any reader. Probably the reason why so many poor books are read is because comparatively few people have the means of obtaining good works, or their attention has never been turned in the right direction. The poisonous reading, of which a few examples have just been given, is spread broad-cast over the land. It is thrown in at our doors; it is displayed at cheap news stands on the street corners. But good books, if we find them, must be sought after. It is a cause for rejoicing that they are now being printed at prices within the means of all, and the result will be that good reading will not long be a possession in the hands of a favored few. But, unfortunately it is not always the case that good books will be preferred by those who have them within reach. One who has never had knowledge of the best works in literature, is not altogether blame-worthy if he has spent much of his time in reading trashy books. But if after having read volumes which have been written by the talented, the wise, and the good, he then returns to the husks presented by the money seeking scribblers of third-class novels, he is certainly responsible for waste of time, injury to mind and a willful neglect of opportunities for healthful recreation and improvement. Good novels will present to
us the world as it is, and our powers of observation and discernment will be enhanced. We need not be told to read them for we all naturally seek the entertainment which they afford. History, philosophy, science, and poetry, many of us must at first read from a sense of duty, knowing that they are indispensable as educators. As we continue with these subjects we shall find that with the growth of mind and cultivation of taste comes a genuine pleasure. Our reading will not only become a means of improvement, but will furnish a spirited and absorbing pastime.
ORIGIN OF POETICAL LITERATURE.
Few people have a natural taste for reading poetry. This is probably because it is not easily understood. It has been written with care and study, and care and study alone on the reader's part will reveal what it contains. Modern poetry frequently abounds in long and involved sentences, unusual forms of expression, puzzling and obsolete words, and a somewhat artificial structure. But it is a singular fact that in almost all languages the first attempts at literature
have been made in verse. Poetry is the natural voice of music. Everybody loves music. Even animals listen to it and are soothed. Human beings, on emerging from a savage state, where before they have been struggling to keep life within their bodies, pause for a moment and in their resting spells form rude musical instruments of horn, bones, strings, wood and straw. Those who were natural musicians and who had inventive ability arranged in simple rhythm the stories of the great warriors of their tribe and then sang them to the accompaniment of the lyre. These early poets are known as the Bards. Their simple poetry, though rude, was always full of spirit, and never failed to awaken a responsive echo in the hearts of the people who were gathered at the feasts and merry-makings.
Simplicity, then, is an important element in poetry as it once was. It is possible to preserve this simplicity even in connection with high mental culture and philosophic thought. This constitutes the charm in the writings of Longfellow, whose sweet and simple, yet wise and thoughtful songs have gained for him the honored name of the people's poet.