Saturday, November 15, 2008

Five best: milestones among poetry anthologies

John Hollander's books include A Draft of Light: Poems (2008) and Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse (2001).

At the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of "Milestones Among Poetry Anthologies."

One title on the list:
The Golden Treasury
Edited by Sir Francis Turner Palgrave

With his four-volume, chronological anthology of "the best songs and lyrical poems in the English language," Sir Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-97) said that he wanted to show "the natural growth and evolution of our poetry," from Shakespeare and Dryden to Shelley and Wordsworth. No poets alive at the collection's publication in 1861 made it into the book, a prohibition that caused some dissension, as did Sir Francis's chronological approach, which he defended on aesthetic grounds. "A rapid passage between Old and New," he claimed, would be "wearisome and hurtful to the sense of Beauty." He added notes and commentary of a sort we have become accustomed to in college literature textbooks, but the importance of "The Golden Treasury" lay in its wide and continued circulation and in the selective judgment of its editor.
Read about another title on Hollander's list.

--Marshal Zeringue