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All the world loves a story, and many excellent stories have been embodied in narrative poetry. Unfortunately, however, in the crowding of our English courses, many of the best poems have been passed over. This volume is an attempt to put before our students some of these poems, and in addition to present some modern narratives. Many of the poems should be, but are not now, a common heritage. They are full of dramatic power, they present excellent pictures, and they are dominated by vigorous and frequently admirable characters. They make a strong appeal to the heroic. They are rich in human emotion, with a concreteness that brings these emotions home. It is safe to say that few indeed are the boys and girls who will not greatly enjoy reading narrative poetry.
Since the poems are so vigorously and sympathetically human, and since they are so strongly dramatic, they furnish excellent material for reading aloud. The book is designed to encourage this practice. For this reason, critical analysis is scarcely to be recommended here. To interrupt a good story by many explanations is to kill the joy. Few notes are given, and these are conveniently placed at the foot of the page. Surely it would be a mistake to turn "How They Brought the Good News” into a geography lesson, or to make "Sohrab and Rustum” the basis for a critical study of the tribes and customs of Central Asia. The story is the thing. Once pupils get the habit of reading the poems aloud with real enthusiasm, the rest will be easy.
The appeal to the physical, so strong with young people, is too often ignored in courses of study; but just as a boy admires and imitates the baseball pitcher who wins a game against seemingly hopeless odds, or the halfback who turns apparent defeat into glorious victory, so he will learn to admire Robin Hood, Paul Revere, Richard Grenville, and Sohrab, once he falls under the sway of their personalities. Unfortunately, boys are not always choice in the selection of their heroes. It would surely be worth while to replace the rakish tough, so often attractive to the thoughtless boy, with the heroic characters of narrative verse. This hero-worship, as characteristic of girls as of boys, will be brought about, not by sermonizing, but by such a vivid presentation as makes the characters alive and thus enables them to do their own winning. Such a presentation is frequently found in narrative poems.
The physical appeal, however, is not the only one. Few are the emotions not called into play in the following selections. The variety is great enough to furnish material for the most varied taste. Whatever the appeal may be, and whatever the method of presentation, it is hoped that the result of a reading of the following poems will be an increased appreciation of narrative verse, a greater open-mindedness for other lines of poetry, and a strengthening of character.
The editor desires to express his appreciation of the courtesies extended by the following publishers, periodicals, and authors in granting permission to use the poems indicated, rights in which are in each case reserved by the owner of the copyright:
Messrs. Barse and Hopkins: "Fleurette" and "Grandpère” from The Rhymes of the Red Cross Man by Robert W. Service, copyright 1916.
Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons: “Keenan's Charge” from Dreams and Days by George P. Lathrop, copyright 1902.
"Vive la France” by Charlotte H. Crawford, Scribner's Magazine. Copyright, 1916, by Charles Scribner's Sons.
The George H. Doran Company and The Outlook: "The Prayer" by Amelia Josephine Burr. Copyright, 1918, by the George H. Doran Company.
Messrs. G. F. Weber and Company: “The Battle Flag at Shenandoah” and “The Defense of the Alamo” by Joaquin Miller.
Messrs. Harper and Brothers: “Arnold at Stillwater” by Thomas R. English.
The Houghton Mifflin Company: “Pan in Wall Street," by Edmund C. Stedman is used by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, authorized publishers of his works.
The John Lane Company: "He Fell among Thieves" and “Vitaï Lampada” by Henry Newbolt.
The Macmillan Company: "The Fight" by Percy MacKaye, and “The Host of the Air” by William Butler Yeats.
The Paget Literary Agency: "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes.
Messrs. A. P. Watt and Company of London, and Messrs. E. P. Dutton and Company: “The Ballad of East and West" by Rudyard Kipling.
Miss Helen Gray Cone: “Greencastle Jenny.”
Mr. Edwin Markham: "How Oswald Dined with God” and “How the Great Guest Came” from The Shoes of Happiness. Mr. Horace Traubel: "Vigil Strange I Kept on the
I Field One Night” and “The Singer in the Prison" by Walt Whitman.
G. E. T.