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TO THE LADY
BEATRIX MAUD CECIL
My dear Maud:
This selection, over which I have hesitated for many months, has been made in the hope of rendering a poet, hitherto little known in proportion to his charm and his deserts, accessible tc readers in general. Herrick's merits may be said to have placed him beyond the sympathy of his own age; his blemishes, beyond that of later times. Ye he was eminent for the felicity with which he unitea natural gifts to mastery over his beautiful art: and, from this happy union, unlike the majority of his coriemporaries, he may be still listened to with
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pleasure as a true living voice, after the lapse of
more than two centuries.
Nor, unless I greatly
overrate the value of his verse, will future ages willingly let it die, whilst the love of beauty, and the magic of the past, two strong powers, retain their hold upon Englishmen.
Fair maidens, we read in the ancient tale, even whilst the dragon kept ward against all others, were free to range within the famous 'Gardens of the West! Such, I please myself with anticipating, alone with Nature in those fortunate times of leisure which fall oftenest to their share, 'woman's, quiet hours,' will enjoy the 'golden appies' which are here gathered together from Herrick's old 'Hesperides.' England is painted by him as she was left by Elizabeth; Nature and the human heart, spring and autumn, joy and sorrow, he paints as they are now and always have been. He may be ead and read again: his book is of that peculiarly delightful and attractive kind which we think of, rather, as a companion or a friend.
These reasons, to which, as a pleasure to myself I must add your own pure taste and ability in art, have made me desirous to dedicate my book to you. It is not, indeed, a moment specially propitious to poetry!— The gate of Europe, like that other seen in vision by Milton, is now
With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms:
men's minds are not in tune with the music of Helicon. Yet hence, also, a contrast arises which makes Poetry even more precious. 'The sweet Muses before everything,'' dulces ante omnia Musae, carry us with them to another and a better, if a more shadowy, world. We
Te can there, it is true, have no abiding habitation: yet at times, quitting reality, with its hard dissonances, its restless revolution, it is lawful for us to dwell in the 'larger aether and purple light' which clothe the Elysian fields of art. That atmosphere some, (and you among them), breathe rather as natives than as visitors: there at least, whatever the loud world may be pursuing, are grace and harmony; there are peace
and permanence. Permanence, indeed, so far as man's work can seem to attain it, is to be found only in such record of noble deeds or lovely thoughts and images, is sculptor and painter, music and sweet poetry,' can provide.—Is that gift of enduring charm, beauty that will not fade, reserved for the verse contained in this little book?—I should not have cared to grace it with your name, were I not convinced that such will be Herrick's portion.
F. T. PALGRAVE