The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XXIII. Writers of Familiar Verse

§ 16. Eugene Field

Eugene Field is like Saxe in one respect at least,—that his verse is frankly comic more often than not. His humour is bold, exuberant, energetic, spontaneous, and easy; and there is cause for wonder, therefore, that he was able to restrain himself on occasion and to curb his comic verse within the strictest bounds of familiar verse, endowing it with genuine sentiment without foregoing either blitheness or brilliancy. He had far more freshness than Saxe, a more fertile originality, and knowledge of men and of books both wider and deeper. He is superior also in technical dexterity, in variety of rhythm, and in fertility of rhyme. His feeling is more spontaneous, his sentiment more abundant and finer in feeling. He can when he chooses hint at the tear which trembles above the lips that seem to smile. There is warrant for the wide popularity of his Little Boy Blue, in which the pathos is pure and tender, without any taint of mawkish sentimentality. Only a little narrower in its appeal is Old Times, Old Friends, Old Loves. Field’s command of sentiment is so certain that he can impart true feeling even to stanzas as frolicsome and as rollicking as those which delight us in Apple Pie and Cheese.