Gateway to the Classics: Old Stories of the East by James Baldwin
 
Old Stories of the East by  James Baldwin

Preface

T HERE are few stories which in themselves are more intensely interesting than those that have come down to us from antiquity through the medium of the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet they have been so generally and so exclusively employed for the purpose of imparting religious instruction, that their purely literary qualities have not always received the attention which they merit. By very many persons, grown-up people as well as children, they are regarded as being inseparably connected with the services of the Sunday school and the Church, and hence scarcely to be thought of during the secular days of the week. There is really no good reason why this should be so. Indeed, there is no good reason why children in the day schools should not read these old stories of the East with as much freedom and with as eager zest as they peruse the classic myths of Greece or the ever-charming tales with which the world of modern fiction abounds.

In the present volume it has been the aim of the author to retell these stories from a literary standpoint, and in exactly the same manner as he would retell other stories pertaining to the infancy of the human race. He has endeavored to represent the actors in them as real men and women inhabiting the same world as ourselves; and, while it has been neither possible nor desirable to omit frequent allusions to the supernatural, care has been taken not to trespass on the domain of the religious teacher. In order the better to carry out this plan, the Hebrew names are used sparingly, and are often omitted in favor of their English equivalents. It is believed that this device will not only give to some of the stories flavor of newness, but that it will in many instances help the young reader to a readier appreciation of their beauty. While each of the twelve stories in this volume is wholly independent of the others, and may be read without any knowledge of those which precede it, there is nevertheless a continuity from the first to the last, giving to the collection the completeness of a single narrative. It comprises, in short, the history of the origin of the Hebrew race, and of the chief events connected with the life of that people down to the period of their greatest prosperity.

Whether or not this presentation of the subject may be an incentive to a closer acquaintance with the matchless volume from which the stories are derived, has not been a matter of consideration on the part of the writer. His sole aim has been to prepare a book which all children at school may read with pleasure, both because of the simple language in which it is written and because of the conceptions of beauty and truth that are found in the stories which it contains.


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