Poetry edited by University of Toronto Department of English faculty from 1912 to 1967 and re-edited online from 1994 to the present by Ian Lancashire

© RPO Editors, Department of English, and University of Toronto Press 1994-2000

What thou lovest well remains,
                  the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
                or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee


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Online Editor's Preface

    Table of Contents

  1. The On-line Versions
  2. The Printed Editions
  3. Differences between the Two
  4. Editorial Methods
  5. Relation to UTEL
  6. Future Versions
  7. Copyright
  8. Usage and Availability
  9. What's New by January 2000
  10. Questions and Answers
  11. Encoding Guidelines

The On-line Versions

Representative Poetry On-line, version 2.05, includes 2,100 English poems by 331 poets from Caedmon, in the Old English period, to the verge of copyright in the twentieth century.

Its electronic founder and editor since 1994 is Ian Lancashire, who is a member of the Department of English, University of Toronto. He teaches a course in Reading Poetry largely from this anthology, but he edits the poems in affection for and gratitude to their authors, whose works enrich and restore our lives.

The bibliographical sources from which the selections are made hold great libraries of poetry for readers and critics venturing out on their own, and for the reader interested in reading more by one poet. If you enjoy these poems, you may also learn from them by growing interested in the poets, the periods in which they lived, and the intellectual and artistic traditions that define the conversations which poets have with their predecessors.

The first online version (Dec. 15, 1994) offered poems in the third edition of Representative Poetry (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962-63, reprinted with corrections 1967), a historical collection of some 730 poems by about 80 poets from Sir Thomas Wyatt to Algernon Charles Swinburne. The second online version (Sept. 31, 1996) was supplemented by many poets and poems appearing in the edition of 1935 (revised and enlarged, 1941-46) but not carried over into the 1962-63 edition for lack of space. In 1997-98, poems found in the editions of 1912 and 1916 that did not find a place afterwards were added, with notes.

Since 1994, the editor has newly prepared many poets not in the original printed editions and added them to the online version. The "what's new" file gives details of these additions. Version 2.05 offers six indexes (title, first-line, poets, timeline, calendar of year's days, glossary, and the poets' works by date of birth) and a search engine that are not in any printed edition.

The texts of the poems in the printed editions are based on the books or manuscripts in which they originally appeared. Their spelling was generally normalized in the edited volumes. New texts, found only in the online version, are transcribed from original editions, mainly without altered spelling.

The Printed Editions

Representative Poetry was produced on eight occasions from 1912 to 1967 by faculty who were formerly members of the University of Toronto combined Departments of English. (Each college, whether religious or nondenominational, had its own English faculty then.) See Robin S. Harris's English Studies at Toronto: A History (University of Toronto: Governing Council, 1988), pp. 64-66, 92-93, 135-36, and 170, for an account of the history of the edition.

The founding editor was W. J. Alexander, Professor of English at University College, and the first professor appointed to the University of Toronto. Late in his career, and after his retirement, other members of the Department undertook the editorial duties. In general, all editors selected poems for inclusion by drawing on both critical judgment and affection.

The English Department wished, in the words of the General Editors of the last edition (often termed the third edition) "to prepare its own anthology of poetry for the use of students, particularly in the pass (now the general) course." This teaching collection came to be used widely outside Toronto in Canada and in some US institutions. As a cooperative, non-commercial venture by faculty with widely differing approaches to their common subject, Representative Poetry was unusual then, as now.

In the last edition, the General Editors described their editorial policy in the following words.

The texts have been completely re-edited, and the main effort has in fact been devoted to the provision of good texts, that is, of texts which represent as closely as possible their authors' intention. The aim has therefore been not to depart in substantial readings from the original texts of greatest authority, whether printed or manuscript, unless there seemed to be strong grounds for emendation. However, the text has been modernized in spelling, or punctuation, or both except in the case of Spenser and for a few words left in Milton's distinctive spelling (e.g., highth and sovran); as earlier editors of Representative Poetry have pointed out, no system of modernization can be completely satisfactory and consistent when several centuries are involved--our aim, like theirs, has been "a minimum of change thought advantageous for the ordinary reader.
The following seven members of the former Combined Departments of English formed an editorial committee that was responsible for the second major printed edition (1931-46): The late Professor Endicott contributed his large library of first editions of poets to the University's Fisher Rare Book Library. His generosity has made re-editing the collection possible.

The following 19 members of the former Combined Departments of English were responsible for the third major printed edition (1963-67):

The present editor, a student of Peter Morgan and a colleague of almost all the others, taught from Representative Poetry on joining the Department of English at Erindale College in 1968.

A few years after the University of Toronto published the final corrected edition, the Combined Departments became a single entity, and the former Honours degree was replaced by specialist, major, and minor programmes. No longer did English students have to proceed through an identical sequence of courses. They could choose different combinations of courses. For this and other reasons, the Department chose not to continue editing or using Representative Poetry. The University of Toronto Press then distributed the remaining copies of the last edition throughout the then Third World.

In 1993 Linda Corman, Librarian at Trinity College, University of Toronto, encouraged the editor to participate in an experimental Web resources program at the main Library. He then obtained the permission of the University of Toronto Press, specifically Wally Brooker, to reedit the volumes online. Sian Meikle, now Digital Librarian at Toronto, advised on the structuring and designing the poet and poem Web pages; and Sharine Leung, head of the New College computing facility, rough-scanned the printed volumes.

The editor is now responsible for the proofreading, indexing, encoding, and annotation of all Representative Poetry Online files. The Web Development Group at the Library, directed by Marc Lalonde, not only publishes the collection but creates the keyword-search facility.

Differences between the Two

The online version differs from the printed editions in several ways.

First, the poems are encoded in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which is one implementation of the ISO standard for text encoding, SGML.

Second, whereas the poems followed one another in chronological order in the printed editions, the online poems have no fixed place in the electronic edition. Each poem has its own file; and large poems are split into several files at major subdivisions. Readers must use the indexes to orient themselves. As a result, there are now many more ways of viewing and combining the poems than in the printed books.

The basic unit of the collection is the HTML-encoded poem file, identified by a filename that combines the poet's name, a sequence number (based on the order of the poems in Representative Poetry), and the extension ".html": for instance, "rossettc3.html" or "blake14.html." The poem files may be accessed in two ways, by a random-selection procedure, and by indexes. For example, an alphabetical index of poets leads you, not to a poem, but to an author file (e.g., "arnold.html"). The author file aspires to have information about the editing of the poet's works and offers an alphabetical index of poems that are linked directly to the poem files.

The editor has tried from the beginning to keep all files small enough, and distributed with as few images as possible, so that they can be retrieved quickly. That accounts for the plain look of the files.

Finally, information in the notes in the printed edition has been gradually introduced as hypertextual tags in the poem file. Instead of looking up notes at the back of a printed edition, a reader makes a single keystroke or mouse-click on a highlighted word or passage in the text.

Editorial Methods

The texts of the poems are normally based on the books or manuscripts in which they originally appeared. Short references to these are either included in the poem file itself or are keyed to a fuller source bibliography and sometimes to an electronic edition of the full text of the original works.

For the 1994 online edition, the files were edited with UNIX emacs, sed (the UNIX stream-editor) and simple perl programs. By using UNIX grep, fgrep, and sort to search for SGML tags and the lines they delimit, I was able to extract and sort titles, first lines, and dates into basic indexes. See the Representative Poetry encoding guidelines for a description of both the SGML and HTML tags. Finally, I include sample perl programs and sed scripts in the tagging guidelines.

For later versions, I have entered or scanned most poems, and constructed all the indexes, manually.

Relation to UTEL

We use the Representative Poetry collection at Toronto as part of a much larger electronic library of authors and texts obtained from commercial and scholarly sources. By seeding texts with the HTML "anchor" tags
               <a name=""> .. </a>
(to create the referent) and
               <a href=""> ... </a>
(to jump from the cross-reference to the referent) you can make a networked database that, in real time, implements the cross references and glosses typical of literary commentary and notes. Different editions of the same work, historical biographies, critical essays of the time, images, maps, and the surviving material culture of the age can all be brought into the same matrix.

Future Plans

The editor intends to add (1) works by more poets, (2) revised editions of existing poems and their notes, (3) prose by poets about poetry, and (4) more indexes. Readers everywhere have made very helpful suggestions about what to include, and most of all, what needs correcting.


Copyright for this collection rests with its editors, past and present, with the Department of English (University of Toronto), and with the University of Toronto Press.

Note that the texts of all poems in Representative Poetry Online are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on the use of the poems themselves. Only the editorial framework, introduction, notes, and indexes of these Web collections are subject to the above copyright restriction.

It is seldom possible to place works in copyright online. The editor, as far as possible, respects the current copyright law of the country of which a poet was citizen at the time he or she wrote the work in question.

Usually, copyright constraints explain why recognized poets are not represented.

Usage and Availability

Representative Poetry On-line is published on a World Wide Web page of the University of Toronto English Library (UTEL), which is listed under Electronic Books in the University Library's Resources page. The encoded collection also belongs to the TACT manual published by the Modern Language Association in 1996.

Permission is hereby given to copy the HTML version of poems in Representative Poetry for non-commercial educational uses, that is, for teaching, research, and study, as long as copyright information is not removed from any Representative Poetry Online file and as long as no charge is made for use of the collection.


Comments and corrections are welcome.

Professor Ian Lancashire
New College
Department of English
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ont. M5S 1A1
Voice: (416) 978-8279