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Customer Review

on March 25, 2001
The appearance of the 1999 Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Christopher Ricks, makes us ask about the 1972 New Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Helen Gardner. Since they are both anthologies of centuries of poetry, there is a lot of overlap. But there are a lot of differences too. In order to include modern poems (Gardner stops at 1950), Ricks has had to cut, and some of my favorite poems did not make the cut: Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar", Keats's Last Sonnet, and Yeats's "An Irish Airman Foresees his Death", to name just three.
With "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift", both books excerpt, and just what is excerpted is instructive. I prefer Ricks here. And Ricks's preservation of spelling and punctuation is in my opinion a better choice, though he then goes and leaves out Coleridge's marginal notes in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
So, if you care about poetry, you need both books. Where they are different, they are both valuable. Where they are the same, they are not quite the same, and a comparison proves instructive. Or at least it has so proved to me.
64 helpful votes
65 helpful votes
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