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POETS have multiplied during the present century as at no previous period. Never was the accomplishment of verse so general as now. "Weren't we in the luck of it," said Scott to Moore, "to have come before all this talent was at work?" If the remark was apt in their day, how much more so is it at the present time! Works in verse, that would have made a reputation a century ago, fall now almost unnoticed from the press. It is hard for the most diligent critic to keep pace with the fertility of our poets. The present compiler had despaired of doing this long before he had proceeded far in his labors. The consequence is that there have been omissions for which no better reason can be given than that they were unavoidable. An apology under such circumstances would be out of place.
It cannot be overlooked, too, that much of the best poetry of recent times has been the product of feminine genius. The progress of women in enlarging the sphere of their occupations, and competing with the employments of the stronger sex, is represented in no department of intellectual work more signally than in verse. Every month new poetry, far above mediocrity, if not of really superior quality, is sent forth.
This is a sign to be welcomed. True poetry, like the religions prompting itself, springs from the emotional side of man's complex nature, and is ever in harmony with his highest intuitions and aspirations. It cannot be poetry if it conflict with these. Its cultivation, therefore, apart from all calculations of profit or of reputation-since few can now realize their dream of fame--must always be an elevating pursuit. There are some great truths for the expression of which the speculative understanding is less fitted than that which is the issue of right feelings and noble impulses. That poets have not always practised what they have preached, only shows how hard it is for a man to act up to his best ideals.
It is profoundly true that poetry is to be found nowhere, unless we have it within us. Here, as throughout all nature and all art, we receive but what we give. And so it is that great poets like Goethe-of whom it was said that his praise of some of the younger poets of his day was "a brevet of mediocrity "-often detect in what