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Jockey and Sawney to their labours rose ;
In the same poem Churchill thus alludes to himself:
Me, whom no muse of heavenly birth inspires,
The characters of Garrick, &c., in the Rosciad, have now ceased to interest; but some of these rough pen-and-ink sketches of Churchill are happily executed. Smollett, who he believed had attacked him in the Critical Review, he alludes to with mingled approbation and ridicule—
Whence could arise this mighty critic spleen,
* The birth-day of the old Chevalier. It used to be a great object with the gardener of a Scottish Jacobite family of those days to have the Stuart emblem in blow by the tenth of June.
What is't to us, if taxes rise or fall?
The reputation of Churchill was also an aerial struc- || ture. No English poet,” says Southey, “had ever enjoyed so excessive and so short-lived a popularity; and indeed no one seems more thoroughly to have understood his own powers; there is no indication in any of his pieces that he could have done any || thing better than the thing he did. To Wilkes he said, that nothing came out till he began to be pleased with it himself; but, to the public, he boasted of the haste and carelessness with which his verses were || poured forth. |
Had I the power, I could not have the time,
Rough as they run, discharge them on the town.
Popularity which is easily gained, is lost as easily; such reputations resembling the lives of insects, whose shortness of existence is compensated by its || proportion of enjoyment. He perhaps imagined that his genius would preserve his subjects, as spices preserve a mummy, and that the individuals whom he had eulogised or stigmatised would go down to posterity in his verse, as an old admiral comes home from the West Indies in a puncheon of rum: he did
not consider that the rum is rendered loathsome, and
that the spices with which the Pharaohs and Poti
phars were embalmed, wasted their sweetness in the catacombs. But, in this part of his conduct, there was no want of worldly prudence: he was enriching
himself by hasty writings, for which the immediate sale was in proportion to the bitterness and personality of the satire.”
Michari. BRUCE—a young and lamented Scottish poet of rich promise—was born at Kinnesswood, parish of Portmoak, county of Kinross, on the 27th of March 1746. His father was a humble tradesman, a weaver, who was burdened with a family of eight children, of whom the poet was the fifth. The dreariest poverty and obscurity hung over the poet's
infancy, but the elder Bruce was a good and pious
man, and trained all his children to a knowledge of
their letters, and a deep sense of religious duty. In the summer months Michael was put out to herd cattle. His education was retarded by this employment; but his training as a poet was benefited by solitary communion with nature, amidst scenery that overlooked Lochleven and its fine old ruined castle. When he had arrived at his fifteenth year, the poet was judged fit for college, and at this time a relation of his father died, leaving him a legacy of 200 merks Scots, or £11, 2s. 2d. sterling. This sum the old man piously devoted to the education of his favourite son, who proceeded with it to Edinburgh, and was enrolled a student of the university. Michael was soon distinguished for his proficiency, and for his taste for poetry. Having been three sessions at college, supported by his parents and some kind friends and neighbours, Bruce engaged to teach a school at Gairney Bridge, where he received for his labours about £11 per annum ! He afterwards removed to Forest Hill, near Alloa, where he taught for some time with no better success. His schoolroom was low-roofed and damp, and the poor youth, confined for five or six hours a-day in this unwholesome atmosphere, depressed by poverty and disappointment, soon lost health and spirits. He wrote his poem of Lochleven at Forest Hill, but was at length forced to return to his father's cottage, which he never again left. A pulmonary complaint had settled on him, and he was in the last stage of consumption. With death full in his view, he wrote his Ode to Spring, the finest of all his productions. He was pious and cheerful to the last, and died on the 5th of July 1767, aged twenty-one years and three months. His Bible was found upon his pillow, marked down at Jer. xxii. 10, ‘Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him.’ So blameless a life could not indeed be contemplated without pleasure, but its premature termination must have been a heavy blow to his aged parents, who had struggled in their poverty to nurture his youthful genius.
Bruce's Monument in Portmoak Churchyard.
| The poems of Bruce were first given to the world by his college friend John Logan, in 1770, who warmly eulogised the character and talents of his brother poet. They were reprinted in 1784, and
afterwards included in Anderson's edition of the poets. The late venerable and benevolent Principal Baird, in 1807, published an edition by subscription for the benefit of Bruce's mother, then a widow. In 1837, a complete edition of the poems was brought out, with a life of the author from original sources, by the Rev. William Mackelvie, Balgedie, Kinrossshire. ... In this full and interesting memoir ample reparation is made to the injured shade of Michael Bruce for any neglector injustice done to his poetical fame by his early friend Logan. Had Bruce lived, it is probable he would have taken a high place among our national poets. He was gifted with the requisite enthusiasm, fancy, and love of *: There was a moral beauty in his life and character which would naturally have expanded itself in poetical composition. The pieces he has left have all the marks of youth; a style only half-formed and immature, and resemblances to other poets, so close and frequent, that the reader is constantly stumbling on some familiar image or expression. In “Lochleven,' a descriptive poem in blank verse, he has taken Thomson as his model. The opening is a paraphrase of the commencement of Thomson's Spring, and epithets taken from the Seasons occur throughout the whole poem, with traces of Milton, Ossian &c. The following passage is the most original and pleasing in the poem:—
[A Rural Picture.]
Now sober Industry, illustrious power! Hath raised the peaceful cottage, calm abode Of innocence and joy: now, sweating, guides The shining ploughshare; tames the stubborn soil; Leads the long drain along the unfertile marsh; Bids the bleak hill with vernal verdure bloom, The haunt of flocks; and clothes the barren heath With waving harvests and the golden grain.
Fair from his hand behold the village rise,
How fair a prospect rises to the eye,
With mirth and music. Even the mendicant,
The conclusion of the poem gives us another picture of rural life, with a pathetic glance at the poet's own condition:—
[Virtue and Happiness in the Country.]
How blest the man who, in these peaceful plains,
Thus sung the youth, amid unfertile wilds
The Last Day is another poem by Bruce in blank verse, but is inferior to ‘Lochleven.” The want of originality is more felt on a subject exhausted by Milton, Young, and Blair; but even in this, as in his other works, the warmth of feeling and graceful freedom of expression which characterise Bruce are seen and felt. In poetical beauty and energy, as in biographical interest, his latest effort, the Elegy, must ever rank the first in his productions. With some weak lines and borrowed ideas, this poem has an air of strength and ripened maturity that powerfully impresses the reader, and leaves him to wonder at the fortitude of the youth, who, in strains of such sensibility and genius, could describe the cheerful appearances of nature, and the certainty of his own speedy dissolution.
unfortunate men of genius whose life has been marked by disappointment and misfortune. He had undoubtedly formed to himself a high standard of literary excellence and ambition, to which he never attained; but there is no evidence to warrant the assertion that Logan died of a broken heart. From one source of depression and misery he was happily exempt: though he died at the early age of forty, he left behind him a sum of £600. Logan was born at Soutra, in the parish of Fala, MidLothian, in 1748. His father, a small farmer, educated him for the church, and, after he had obtained a license to preach, he distinguished himself so much by his pulpit eloquence, that he was appointed one of the ministers of South Leith. He afterwards read a course of lectures on the Philosophy of History in Edinburgh, the substance of which he published in 1781; and next year he gave to the public one of his lectures entire on the Government of Asia. The same year he published his poems, which were well received; and in 1783 he produced
a tragedy called Runnimede, founded on the signing
of Magna Charta. His parishioners were opposed to such an exercise of his talents, and unfortunately Logan had lapsed into irregular and dissipated habits. The consequence was, that he resigned his charge on receiving a small annuity, and proceeded to London, where he resided till his death in December 1788. During his residence in London, Logan was a contributor to the English Review, and wrote a pamphlet on the Charges Against Warren Hastings, which attracted some notice. Among his manuscripts were found several unfinished tragedies, thirty lectures on Roman history, portions of a periodical work, and a collection of sermons, from which two volumes were selected and published by his executors. The sermons are warm
and passionate, full of piety and fervour, and must have been highly impressive when delivered. One act in the literary life of Logan we have already adverted to-his publication of the poems of Michael Bruce. His conduct as an editor cannot be justified. He left out several pieces by Bruce, and, as he states in his preface, “to make up a miscellany,’ poems by different authors were inserted. The best of these he claimed, and published afterwards as his own. The friends of Bruce, indignant at his conduct, have since endeavoured to snatch this laurel from his brows, and considerable uncertainty hangs over the question. With respect to the most valuable piece in the collection, the Ode to the Cuckoo-'magical stanzas,’ says D'Israeli, and all will echo the praise, ‘of picture, melody, and sentiment,’ and which Burke admired so much, that on visiting Edinburgh, he sought out Logan to compliment him—with respect to this beautiful effusion of fancy and feeling, the evidence seems to be as follows:–In favour of Logan, there is the open publication of the ode under his own name; the fact of his having shown it in manuscript to several friends before its publication, and declared it to be his composition; and that, during the whole of his life, his claim to be the author was not disputed. On the other hand, in favour of Bruce, there is the oral testimony of his relations and friends, that they always understood him to be the author; and the written evidence of Dr Davidson, Professor of Natural and Civil History, Aberdeen, that he saw a copy of the ode in the possession of a friend of Bruce, Mr Bickerton, who assured him it was in the handwriting of Bruce; that this copy was signed “Michael Bruce,’ and below it were written the words, “You will think I might have been better employed than writing about a gowk'—[Anglice, cuckoo.] It is unfavourable to the case of Logan, that he retained some of the manuscripts of Bruce, and his conduct throughout the whole affair was careless and unsatisfactory. Bruce's friends also claim for him some of the hymns published by Logan as his own, and they show that the unfortunate young bard had applied himself to compositions of this kind, though none appeared in his works as published by Logan. The truth here seems to be, that Bruce was the founder, and Logan the perfecter, of these exquisite devotional strains: the former supplied stanzas which the latter extended into poems, imparting to the whole a finished elegance and beauty of diction which certainly Bruce does not seem to have been capable of giving. Without adverting to the disputed ode, the best of Logan's productions are his verses on a Visit to the Country in Autumn, his half dramatic poem of The Lovers, and his ballad stanzas on the Braes of Yarrow. A vein of tenderness and moral sentiment runs through the whole, and his language is select and poetical. In some lines On the Death of a Young }. we have the following true and touching exclamation:—
What time the daisy decks the green,
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
Delightful visitant! with thee
And hear the sound of music sweet
The schoolboy, wandering through the wood
Starts, the new voice of spring to hear,"
What time the pea puts on the bloom,
An annual guest in other lands,
Sweet bird thy bower is ever green,
[Written in a Visit to the Country in Autumn.]
'Tis past ! no more the Summer blooms'
Ah! well-known streams —ah! wonted groves,
Alas! the hospitable hall,
Companions of the youthful scene, Endeared from earliest days
With whom I sported on the green, Or roved the woodland mazel
* This line originally stood—
which was probably altered by Logan as defective in quantity. “Curious may be a Scotticism, but it is felicitous. It marks the unusual resemblance of the note of the cuckoo to the human voice, the cause of the start and imitation which follow. Whereas the “new voice of spring” is not true; for many voices in spring precede that of the cuckoo, and it is not peculiar or striking, nor does it connect either with the start or imitation." —Note by Lord Mackenzie (son of the ‘Man of Fecling') in Bruce's
Poems, by Rev. W. Mackclvic.