T. R. Smith, comp. Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse. 192122.
By Thomas Robert Smith (18801942)
IN order to anticipate criticism because of the possible omission of anothers favorite poem, I shall state here that this collection of Amatory verse should be considered as an anthology, and being this it must be judged by the virtues or deficiencies of any large or small collection of verse selected by one person. On this point it is solely a matter of taste regarding what is interesting or what might be uninteresting and its value will have to stand by the editors selections.
For this particular anthology I have made every effort to gather together from many various sources, any amatory poetry of an interesting character that might prove to be different in tone from the conventional love-verse that finds its way into anthologies of another character. In 1897 John S. Farmer published his excellent collection of The National Songs and Ballads of England and Scotland before 1800, in five volumes. This work was addressed purposely to scholars and issued in a small edition. As a result it soon became quite rare and sets are now difficult to procure. Mr. Farmer, a fine scholar, gathered together a large collection of examples of curious amatory, satirical and canting songs and poems from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Comprehensive as his work is, it has proved to be far from complete, even though his plan permitting him to include much that was coarse and obscene.
This not being my purpose, I found it necessary to omit many poems that were vulgarly offensive and seldom interesting. In these volumes, Eros rules and Aphrodite guides the passionate motives. Herein you will find both charm and interest, and, occasionally good-natured cynicism, but never, deliberately, a vulgar tone. The work is issued in a limited subscription edition so that it may possibly not reach the overfastidious or the coarse-minded ones who secretly admire what they pretend to dislike; people quite incapable of appreciating literature for its better qualities. And should anyone cry immoral! at the book I shall quote from Lord Macaulays fine essay on the Restoration Dramatists: The whole liberal education of our countrymen is conducted on the principle, that no book which is valuable, either by the excellence of its style, or by reason of the light which it throws on the history, polity and manner of nations, should be withheld from the student on account of its impurity . We find it difficult to believe that in a world so full of temptation as this any gentleman (or lady), whose life would have been virtuous if he had not read Aristophanes and Juvenal, will be made vicious by reading them .
The poems contained in these volumes range from the earliest time to the present and the names of the most distinguished poets of yesterday and today will be found in the contents. It is interesting to note the difference in the expression of the poetry of recent years from that of the Elizabethan and Restoration period in England as well as that of the ancient literatures. We have changed from the apparent frankness of other ages to a refined subtlety of thought and phrase peculiar to our own. The intelligent reader will find our contemporary poetry as suggestive and erotic, but not so daring as that of the earlier writers.
The best available English translations of Greek, Latin and other foreign poetry have been utilized and wherever a prose translation was found to be better and more accurate than a verse translation, it has been printed in preference. Some of the sources from which these selections have been taken are: National Songs and Ballads of England and Scotland before 1800 (1890). Merry, Facetious and Witty Songs and Ballads prior to 1800 (1895), both edited by John S. Farmer. Pills to Purge Melancholy (editions of 1707 and 1719). The Musical Miscellany, (1729). The Cupid, (1736). Songs Comic and Satirical, by George A. Stevens (1782). The Festival of Love, (1789). The Merry Nurses of Caledonia, (1800). The Point of View, (1905). And the Drollery Books of the 17th century, so intelligently edited by J. Woodfall Ebsworth, M.A. In addition to those sources I have also used many Chap-books, privately printed and rare books in the possession of fortunate collectors. Every real lover of literature will remember with grateful emotion the work of that fine scholar, Mr. A. H. Bullen who died recently. No finer or more painstaking student of the Poetry and Drama of the Elizabethan and Restoration periods has ever lived. His work was so finished and complete that there is little left for the student of that literature to do.
The editor acknowledges with gratitude the kindness of so many contemporary poets and their publishers in permitting him to use selections from their printed books and unpublished manuscripts. The generosity of such shrewd collectors as Mr. Arthur E. Clough, Mr. Edward Morrill, Mr. M. Harzof and Mr. Joseph Kling made it easy for me to assemble a large part of the material used. To these gentlemen I am deeply grateful.
It is my purpose to issue another volume later containing the longer poems and ballads of an erotic character, which it was necessary to omit in the present anthology owing to a desire to keep within certain understood limits of space. When this third volume has been issued it will complete my plan of a representative collection of erotic verse in English.