Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 4. Holly Tree; My Days among the Dead are passed

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

VIII. Southey

§ 4. Holly Tree; My Days among the Dead are passed

During the time when he was loyally endeavouring to repay his uncle’s kindness by adopting some profession, he partly suspended his “long-poem” writing. But, in the last years of the century, he produced many smaller pieces, generally good, sometimes all but consummate and really important to history. There is still rubbish: many of those poems on the slave trade which have gone some way towards avenging the poor African by the boredom if not anguish which they have inflicted on the white brethren of his oppressors; Botany Bay Eclogues (but, indeed, these were earlier and contemporary with Wat Tyler), the much ridiculed, and, no doubt, wrongly constructed, sapphics and dactylics, which reflect the same temper. But, especially during his sojourn at Westbury, near Bristol, he also wrote lyrics and ballads of very much greater value. Here, in 1789, was composed that admirable Holly-Tree which softened even Hazlitt, and which with My days among the Dead are passed, twenty years later, shows Southey at his very best both as a poet and as a man.