Matthew Arnold and others attacked the Lays, judging them by the irrelevant standard of the highest ﬂights of poetry. But judged for what they are, ballads, they are masterly, and deserved the immense popularity they enjoyed with two generations of Englishmen. In those days every schoolboy knew them, and many both young and old had them by heart. From them young people learnt to take pleasure in the sound and rhythm of verse, which helped them later to enjoy other greater poets. I do not think that the oblivion into which the Lays have since fallen has been an advantage to literature.