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Posted July 26, 2013
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Mary E. Burt was an educator who believed in giving young minds the best that the ages have left us. Her introductions evoke an America where children memorize poems or quite sophisticated prose passages in anticipation of the day they would get to recite, no doubt to much encouragement and applause. And what American children were reciting gives a glimpse of the character of the men and women of that time.
There's a reason Longfellow was America's most popular poet. We have rejected the sort of earnestness and moral uplift that Longfellow and Burt espouse. But these poems remain fun to read. They are clear. They are didactic or, in Burt's words, "heroic." Burt was of the school of Emerson and Whitman, whom she quotes. It is the great mind that unites us and great poetry is the purest experience of that.