Chief British Poets: Of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, Selected Poems (Classic Reprint)by William Allan Neilson
No apology need be made for including a generous selection from the traditional bal lads. Their authors, if they had authors in the strict sense, are indeed not among the Chief Poets, nor are they all by any means to be assigned to the two centuries with which we are here
Excerpt from Chief British Poets: Of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, Selected Poems
No apology need be made for including a generous selection from the traditional bal lads. Their authors, if they had authors in the strict sense, are indeed not among the Chief Poets, nor are they all by any means to be assigned to the two centuries with which we are here concerned; but in a series which, it is hoped, will cover the whole field of English poetry, it would be preposterous to neglect a type which is one of its glories and, in point of chronology, the ballads fit this volume as well as any. They belong to the folk, and the taste of the folk has little relation to the conventional periods into which literary history is divided.
A notable feature of the collection is the prominence given to the Scottish poets of the period. Partly on account of the political separation of England and Scotland, partly through an exaggerated sense of the dimculty of the dialect, students of English literature have unduly neglected these writers. Yet after a few peculiarities in spelling have been noted, Barbour, for example, is as easy as Chaucer and in the matter of poetic quality none of Chaucer's English disciples is the equal of Henryson or Dunbar. The latter, it is true, is often mentioned if seldom read but it is doubtful whether there is in the whole of English literature a case of neglected genius so remarkable as that of Henryson. This book will justify itself if it does no more than make accessible and call attention to poetry of so much interest and distinction.
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