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or useful and Entertaining
IMPROVEMENT of YOUTH,
CONDUCT of LIFE;
bring similar in Design to
ELEGANT EXTRACTS IN PROSE.)
[Edited by Vicesimus Knox.y
PRE F. A C E.
INCE Poetry affords young perfons an innocent pleafure, a tafte for it, under certain limitations, should be indulged. Why fhould they be forbid den to expatiate, in imagination, over the flowery fields of Arcadia, in Elyfium, in the Ifles of the Bleft, and in the Vale of Tempè? The harmless delight which they derive from Poetry, is furely fufficient to recommend an attention to it, at an age when pleasure is the chief pursuit, even if the sweets of it were not blended with utility.
But if pleasure were the ultimate object of Poetry, there are fome who, in the rigour of auftere wifdom, would maintain that the precious days of youth might be more advantageously employed than in cultivating a tafte for it. To obviate their objections, it is neceffary to remind them, that Poetry has ever claimed the power of conveying inftruction in the most effectual manner, by the vehicle of pleasure.
There is reason to believe that many young perfons of natural genius would have given very little attention to learning of any kind, if they had been introduced to it by books appealing only to their reafon and judgment, and not to their fancy. Through the pleasant paths of Poetry, they have been gradually led to the heights of science: they have been allured, on firft fetting out, by the beauty of the scene presented to them into a delightful land, flowing with milk and honey; where, after having been nourished like the infant from the mother's breaft, they have gradually acquired ftrength enough to relish and digeft the folideft food of philosophy.
This opinion feems to be confirmed by actual experience; for the greatest men, in every liberal and honourable profeffion, have given their early years to the charms of Poetry. Many of the moft illuftrious worthies in the church and in the ftate, were allured to the land of learning by the fong of the Mufe; and they would perhaps have never entered it, if their preceptors had forbidden them to lend an ear. Of fo much confequence is Poetry to the genera advancement of learning.