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The voices of our fathers gone before
Float back to us, who struggle in the rear ; Subdued by distance ever more and more,
The purest notes are those that reach the ear.
We tread where Cædmon, far before us, trod,
Where echoes are resounding yet his song : “It is most meet, that we should worship God,
Our great Creator. In Him ye are strong :
Through the great deep where stormy waters flow,
Your way is safe, whatever ills pursue ; Through the fierce furnace safe with Him you go,
As through the sunlight when it lifts the dew,
If ye have faith. Have faith !” And are not these
Whispers of Bede heard through our tread of feet ?Lift me, and let me die upon my knees,
Where I prayed daily ; so to die is sweet.”
When you have tried all treasures, Truth is best :"
True Langland's music calls us from above: Whatever poison stabs, Love gives you rest
And health; the Triacle of Heaven is Love."
Voice after voice, the frailties of the flesh
Dust with the flesh, still blends its purer strain With our own speech, falls only to refresh,
Touches earth tenderly as summer rain,
Till earth, less hard about our stony way,
Smiles into life, loosens its iron grip,
Shoot upward to find Heaven's companionship.
By him is Paradise Regained indeed
Who bears, with Christ, pain, famine, patient still :“Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts, that feed
Me hungering more to do my Father's will.”
Teach, Father, God, our children how to pass
From earth to Heaven as from home to home,
This Story of English Literature is the story of those "Prophets, sages, and worthies” of our nation, who, seeing more clearly than other men the truths of life and what God meant the world to be, have striven in various formsin poems, stories, plays, essays, sermons, and lively jests—to set forth the true ideal. The work of each has been his own, shaped by his own individuality, tinged often by the circumstances of his own life, coloured still more by the spirit and fashion of the age in which he lived, but having running through it all the honest looking for what is right, and the endeavour to make others see it.
We shall not in this story of our Literature attempt to deal with the philosophic history of thought, nor venture into the critical examination of special works, nor enter upon a search into hidden meanings and explanations of early texts : these branches of a higher study are left in far more able and scholarly hands, of whose labours this little book is gratefully content to avail itself. This is only a story of English Literature, and it is only told to those who come quite freshly to the subject, not as critics, nor even yet as students, but who with awakening intelligence are ready to have their eyes opened by Literature to the beauty of the world around them, the sweetness of that love which fills our homes with blessedness, the nobleness of faithfulness to duty at any sacrifice, and the glory of faith and patience, enduring all things with hope and courage to the end. And through it all we shall endeavour to catch a glimpse of the hand of God, leading mankind onwards and upwards from age to age.
It is hoped that this volume may find a place as one of those means employed in a widely founded education, which aims at an early, harmonious development of every God-given faculty. It may serve also as a first introduction to our life-long teachers, from whom we hope, by deeper study of their works, to learn continually more and more as years pass on, who will thus become to us the light and help of our lives, from whom we shall never desire to part, and with whom death itself may bring us into nearer communion.