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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 8. The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies

The Plea of the Midsummer’s Fairies may be thought to need no praise after Lamb’s; yet, it may not be impertinent, and it is certainly not rash, to pronounce it, after nearly a hundred years, the most charming poem of some size and pretension which has missed its due meed of general appreciation during the interval. It was rather unwise to try Hero and Leander again; and the anapaestic metre of Lycus the Centaur was ill chosen—the gallop of the centaur probably suggested it. Yet, if anyone will read these two poems patiently he will hardly think otherwise than nobly of them.

But Hood was by no means only a master of the heavier plectrum. He could write songs and shorter pieces generally, light, but not in the least comic, with singular skill. Some of these, no doubt, have been confounded, with Moore’s and others, under the general censure-tickets “tinkling,” “trivial,” “tawdry,” “sentimental” and what not. Anyone who chooses may, of course, pin one or another, or several, of these epithets to A Death Bed, and even to the great Farewell, Life stanzas written on his own death-bed; to the ballad (It was not in the Winter) of the time of roses; to Fair Ines and A lake and a Fairy boat and the bitter-sweet irony of Spring it is cheery and the stateliness and fervour of Giver of glowing light and The stars are with the Voyager. But a more catholic criticism will simply disregard tickets or, perhaps, detach them and throw them on the rubbish heap, their appointed place, saying, “These things are poetry: and this was a poet.”