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THIS book was ready for the press in the autumn of 1899, when the outbreak of the war in South Africa led to the postponement of publication. Two years—and such years -are a long time. There is nothing in the book that I do not believe to-day, as I did two years ago; but there are many things which, were I writing to-day, I should express differently. For instance, several poets who in 1898-99 were "still more or less on probation," are now on probation no longer, and the tone of advocacy which I have here and there adopted may perhaps seem uncalled for. It is not my fault, however, that the great critic, Time, has in these cases been beforehand with me. I tried to anticipate his judgment; he has turned the tables and anticipated mine.
A few additions have been made to the text in the interim; but the book stands substantially as I wrote it in 1898–99.
Mr. E. C. Stedman's Anthology of American Poetry, with its 580 names, for the most part of living writers, has shown me how superficial has been my survey of the transatlantic field. But it has also shown me the hopelessness of attempting to do more than cull a flower here and there in so vast and luxuriant a prairie.
The title I originally had in mind was Living Poets of the Younger Generation; but while the book lay in manuscript, the death of that very able writer, Mr. Richard Hovey, made a melancholy gap in my list of "living" poets. Death having, so to speak, called him out of the rank, I have made Mr. Hovey's portrait the frontispiece of this volume. A fortuitous ground of selection was the only one possible in a book in which any attempt at comparing values, or establishing an order of merit, is deliberately abjured.
August 1, 1901.