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HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION, AND BIOGRAPHICAL
PROFESSOR OF MODERN LANGUAGES IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER.
NEW YORK AND CHICAGO:
IVISON, BLAKEMAN, TAYLOR, AND COMPANY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,
BY IVISON, BLAKEMAN, TAYLOR, & CO., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & Co.,
Mrs. F. W. Kelsey
THIS Compilation of French poetry has been made with the double design of furnishing a collection of the best and most readable poems in the language, and also of giving, at the same time, something of a connected history of the origin and development of this branch of the literature.
In pursuance of this latter object, the Introduction presents a cursory view of the whole field, extending from the first appearance of poetical fruits in the French language proper, down to the epoch of its full maturity and bloom. As the seedtime of a great national literature, this period is full of interest, and points with ever-increasing clearness to the abundant harvest of the classic which then follows. Of the productions of this earlier stage of the language, yet unsettled and immature, but very scanty specimens have been given, only sufficient to indicate here and there the most noted works, and mark the successive steps of linguistic and literary growth. But from the commencement of the Classic Period, which begins with Malherbe, each author has his place chronologically assigned, and is represented by numerous and characteristic selections from his writings, together with a biographical sketch designed to furnish the leading events of his life, and especially his literary rank. In these biographical notices, as well as in the Introduction, the author has aimed not so much to present his own opinions as to reflect the best results of all good
criticism. He has accordingly made free use of every available authority, always intending to give credit where the language is directly borrowed, but more frequently, of course, accepting ideas for which no such acknowledgment could be given. French criticism, though always intelligent, is frequently marked by a certain. excess which no other standard, perhaps, would quite allow; certainly not ours. It has been a work of no little difficulty sometimes to find the golden mean.
From certain peculiarities in the French language, and especially from the absence of the strong accent which characterizes the Teutonic tongues, it has been very generally concluded among us that it is not adapted to the laws of rhythm. It cannot be denied that to the great majority, even of our scholars, those who are tolerably conversant with French prose, the broad and magnificent realm of their verse is wholly unknown, and we still hear the question seriously asked, "Have the French really any poetry?" It is confidently believed that the present volume, though by no means an exhaustive gleaning, will furnish a satisfactory answer to this question, which has undoubtedly had its origin mainly in the lack of the materials for investigation conveniently at hand.
Much care has been exercised in making the selections. With all the leading authors, standard Paris editions have been used, so as to insure correctness in the text. As it was thought best not to encumber the work with notes, the choice has been made with this fact in view. While some few of the poems necessarily belong to the class of more difficult reading, the great majority of them will be found within the easy reach of the ordinary reader of French, and all of them unexceptionable in moral tone. It will be seen, by those familiar with the field, that now and then poems have been shortened. This has been done by the omission either of parts objectionable in themselves, or, in case of long pieces, of parts not absolutely essential to the sense of the whole.
The necessity of a chronological order forbade a progressive arrangement of the materials. The skilful teacher will, however, easily remedy this defect by a judicious choice of pieces according to the capacity of his class. For the benefit of those who may be destitute of such aid, it is suggested to begin with selections from the Miscellaneous Poems; then take from the easier authors, such as Arnault, Millevoye, Ducis, and Delavigne; then, fables of La Fontaine and Florian, songs of Béranger, and so on to the more strictly classic poems of Rousseau, Voltaire, Racine, and Boileau; thus reaching at last the most difficult styles perhaps, those of the poets of the romantic school, with their leaders Victor Hugo and Lamartine. It is but a very general classification, however, which is here hinted at. Easy pieces will be found among the selections from every author, and the lover of true poetry can hardly go amiss. It may also be added that any imagined difficulties in the French verse will speedily disappear with the practice of reading aloud. The teacher may likewise greatly aid in opening the way to this agreeable exercise by first himself reading the selection once and again to his pupils, and then having them read it, line by line, after him, or pronounce it in concert with him. The practice, also, of committing little poems to memory will be found most profitable as a means of acquiring and retaining the pronunciation.
The Manual is not designed to take the place of any one of the many excellent French Readers which we have already in use, but simply to furnish additional facilities for the more advanced study. And as it is in part the result of frequent requests from practical teachers, it is earnestly hoped that it may meet all expectations, and thus supply the important and growing demand, serving both for school and home use, and as a handy companion for all who desire to extend their acquaintance with the language and literature of this people.