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ENTEREN, ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS, IN THE YEAR 1842, BY CAREY & HIRT, IN THE OFFICE OF THE CLERK
OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.
L. JOHNSON, STEREOTYPER.
C. SHERMAN AND CO., PRINTERS
TO THE READER.
Tais work is designed to exhibit the progress and condition of Poetry in the United States. It contains selections from a large number of authors, all of whom have lived in the brief period which has elapsed since the establishment of the national government. Considering the youth of the country, and the many circumstances which have had a tendency to retard the advancement of letters, it speaks well for the past and present, and cheeringly for the future.
Although America has produced many eminent scholars and writers, we have yet but the beginning of a national literature. There have been few greater metaphysicians and theologians than Jonathan EDWARDS; JAMES Marsu occupies a high rank in philosophy; Prescott belongs to the first class of historians; FRANKLIN, AUDUbon, and Webster have been among the most successful investigators of the sciences; Irving, Cooper, and HAWTHORNE have composed fictions that will keep green their memories for centuries ; Channing and EVERETT have won unfading laurels in the departments of polite letters in which they have written; and some whose names are in this book are Poets, in the strictest and highest sense of that term. But how many of them all are free from that vassalage of opinion and style which is produced by a constant study of the literature of that nation whose language we speak, whose manners we adopt, and which was the home of our ancestors, and is the holy land to which our own spirits turn?
It is said that the principles of our fathers are beginning to be regarded with indifference; that love of country is decaying; and that the affections of the people are in the transition state from the simplicity of democracy to the gilded shows of aristocratic government. If it be so, here is the cause : The national tastes and feelings are fashioned by the subjects of kings; and they will continue so to be, until, by an honest and politic system of RECIPROCAL COPYRIGHT, such PROTECTION is given to the native mind as will enable men of the first order of genius to devote themselves to authorship. Literature, not less than wealth, adds to a nation's happiness and greatness; the man of letters should receive as much of the fostering care of the government as is extended to the agriculturist or the manufacturer.
There are, connected with this country, no lack of subjects for poetry and romance. The perilous voyages of the old Norsemen; the sublime heroism of Columbus, his triumphs, and his sufferings; the fall of the Peruvian and Mexican empires; the vast ruins indicating where annihilated nations once had their capitals; the colonization of New England by the Puritans; the belief in witchcraft; the persecutions of the Quakers and Baptists; the wars of Philip of Mount Hope; the rise and fall of the French dominion in Canada; the extinction of the great confederacy of the five nations; the settlement of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, by persons of the most varied and picturesque characters; the sublime and poetical mythology of the aborigines; and that grand revolu. tion, resulting in our political independence and the establishment of the democratic principle, which forms for the present a barrier between the traditionary past, and our own time, too familiar to be moulded by the hand of fiction: all abound with themes for the poet. A true creator, with a genius great as John Milton's, might invent an epic equal to - Paradise Lost,” by restoring Palenque and Copan to their meridian splendour, peopling them with a polished and chivalrous race, and describing their decline and final extinction, so that only ruins of temples and palaces, overgrown with trees whose roots penetrate the loam of centuries, tell the brief history that they were and are not.
Turning from the subjects for heroic, to those for descriptive poetry, we have a variety not less extensive and interesting. The mountains of New England and the West; the great inland seas between Itasca and the Saint Lawrence, with their thousand islands; the lesser lakes; the majestic