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Jockey and Sawney to their labours rose ;
Soon clad I ween, where nature needs no clothes;
Jockey, whose manly high cheek bones to crown,
In the same poem Churchill thus alludes to himself:
Who would, but cannot, with a master's skill,
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,
In walks of humour, in that cast of style,
In comedy, his natural road to fame,
In 'Night,' Churchill thus gaily addressed his friend
The reputation of Churchill was also an aërial structure. 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, While spirits flow, and life is in her prime, Without a sin 'gainst pleasure, to design A plan, to methodise each thought, each line, Highly to finish, and make every grace In itself charming, take new charms from place. Nothing of books, and little known of men, When the mad fit comes on I seize the pen ; Rough as they run, the rapid thoughts set down, 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 Potiphars 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.'
MICHAEL 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 afterwards included in Anderson's edition of the their letters, and a deep sense of religious duty. In poets. The late venerable and benevolent Principal the summer months Michael was put out to herd Baird, in 1807, published an edition by subscription cattle. His education was retarded by this employ- for the benefit of Bruce's mother, then a widow. In ment; but his training as a poet was benefited by 1837, a complete edition of the poems was brought solitary communion with nature, amidst scenery out, with a life of the author from original sources, that overlooked Lochleven and its fine old ruined by the Rev. William Mackelvie, Balgedie, Kinrosscastle. When he had arrived at his fifteenth year, shire. In this full and interesting memoir ample the poet was judged fit for college, and at this time reparation is made to the injured shade of Michael a relation of his father died, leaving him a legacy of Bruce for any neglect or injustice done to his poetical 200 merks Scots, or £11, 2s. 2d. sterling. This sum fame by his early friend Logan. Had Bruce lived, the old man piously devoted to the education of his it is probable he would have taken a high place favourite son, who proceeded with it to Edinburgh, among our national poets. He was gifted with the and was enrolled a student of the university. Michael requisite enthusiasm, fancy, and love of nature. was soon distinguished for his proficiency, and for There was a moral beauty in his life and character his taste for poetry. Having been three sessions at which would naturally have expanded itself in college, supported by his parents and some kind poetical composition. The pieces he has left have friends and neighbours, Bruce engaged to teach a all the marks of youth; a style only half-formed school at Gairney Bridge, where he received for his and immature, and resemblances to other poets, so labours about £11 per annum! He afterwards re- close and frequent, that the reader is constantly moved to Forest Hill, near Alloa, where he taught stumbling on some familiar image or expression. for some time with no better success. His school-In Lochleven,' a descriptive poem in blank verse, he room was low-roofed and damp, and the poor youth, has taken Thomson as his model. The opening is confined for five or six hours a-day in this unwhole- a paraphrase of the commencement of Thomson's some atmosphere, depressed by poverty and disap- Spring, and epithets taken from the Seasons occur pointment, soon lost health and spirits. He wrote throughout the whole poem, with traces of Milton, his poem of Lochleven at Forest Hill, but was at Ossian &c. The following passage is the most orilength forced to return to his father's cottage, which ginal and pleasing in the poem :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.
[A Rural Picture.]
Now sober Industry, illustrious power!
Fair from his hand behold the village rise,
And backward, through the gloom of ages past,
Encircled with her swains and rosy nymphs,
With mirth and music. Even the mendicant, Bowbent with age, that on the old gray stone, Sole sitting, suns him in the public way, Feels his heart leap, and to himself he sings. 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,
Of rural life, he dwells; and with him dwells
The silent path of life. Learned, but not fraught
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.
Elegy Written in Spring. 'Tis past the iron North has spent his rage; Stern Winter now resigns the lengthening day; The stormy howlings of the winds assuage,
And warm o'er ether western breezes play.
Far to the north grim Winter draws his train,
Loosed from the bands of frost, the verdant ground
Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers,
While o'er the wild his broken notes resound.
The cheerful lambkins dance and frisk around. Now is the time for those who wisdom love,
Who love to walk in Virtue's flowery road, Along the lovely paths of spring to rove,
And follow Nature up to Nature's God. Thus Zoroaster studied Nature's laws;
Thus Socrates, the wisest of mankind; Thus heaven-taught Plato traced the Almighty cause, And left the wondering multitude behind.
Thus Ashley gathered academic bays;
Thus gentle Thomson, as the seasons roll, Taught them to sing the great Creator's praise, And bear their poet's name from pole to pole. Thus have I walked along the dewy lawn; My frequent foot the blooming wild hath worn; Before the lark I've sung the beauteous dawn, And gathered health from all the gales of morn, And, even when winter chilled the aged year, I wandered lonely o'er the hoary plain: Though frosty Boreas warned me to forbear,
Boreas, with all his tempests, warned in vain. Then, sleep my nights, and quiet blessed my days; I feared no loss, my mind was all my store; No anxious wishes e'er disturbed my ease; Heaven gave content and health-I asked no more. Now, Spring returns: but not to me returns The vernal joy my better years have known; Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns, And all the joys of life with health are flown.
Starting and shivering in the inconstant wind,
I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of wo;
There let me wander at the shut of eve,
When sleep sits dewy on the labourer's eyes: The world and all its busy follies leave,
And talk with Wisdom where my Daphnis lies.
There let me sleep, forgotten in the clay,
When death shall shut these weary aching eyes; Rest in the hopes of an eternal day,
Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise.
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 Mr D'Israeli, in his Calamities of Authors,' has writing about a gowk'-[Anglice, cuckoo.] It is included the name of JOHN LOGAN as one of those unfavourable to the case of Logan, that he retained unfortunate men of genius whose life has been some of the manuscripts of Bruce, and his conduct marked by disappointment and misfortune. He throughout the whole affair was careless and unsahad undoubtedly formed to himself a high standard tisfactory. Bruce's friends also claim for him some of literary excellence and ambition, to which he of the hymns published by Logan as his own, and never attained; but there is no evidence to warrant they show that the unfortunate young bard had the assertion that Logan died of a broken heart. applied himself to compositions of this kind, though From one source of depression and misery he was none appeared in his works as published by Logan. happily exempt: though he died at the early age The truth here seems to be, that Bruce was the of forty, he left behind him a sum of £600. Logan founder, and Logan the perfecter, of these exquisite was born at Soutra, in the parish of Fala, Mid- devotional strains: the former supplied stanzas Lothian, in 1748. His father, a small farmer, edu- which the latter extended into poems, imparting to cated him for the church, and, after he had obtained the whole a finished elegance and beauty of diction a license to preach, he distinguished himself so which certainly Bruce does not seem to have been much by his pulpit eloquence, that he was appointed capable of giving. Without adverting to the disone of the ministers of South Leith. He after-puted ode, the best of Logan's productions are his wards read a course of lectures on the Philosophy verses on a Visit to the Country in Autumn, his half of History in Edinburgh, the substance of which he dramatic poem of The Lovers, and his ballad stanzas published in 1781; and next year he gave to the on the Braes of Yarrow. A vein of tenderness and public one of his lectures entire on the Government moral sentiment runs through the whole, and his of Asia. The same year he published his poems, language is select and poetical. In some lines On which were well received; and in 1783 he produced the Death of a Young Lady, we have the following a tragedy called Runnimede, founded on the signing true and touching exclamation :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
What tragic tears bedew the eye!
To the Cuckoo.
Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!
What time the daisy decks the green,
Thy certain voice we hear;
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
I hail the time of flowers,
And hear the sound of music sweet
From birds among the bowers.
The schoolboy, wandering through the wood
Starts, the new voice of spring to hear,*
What time the pea puts on the bloom,
Sweet bird thy bower is ever green,
O could I fly, I'd fly with thee!
[Written in a Visit to the Country in Autumn.]
"Tis past! no more the Summer blooms!
Behold congenial Autumn comes,
What time thy holy whispers breathe,
And twilight consecrates the floods;
O let me wander through the sounding woods!
Oh! sacred scene of youthful loves,
The wild-flower strown on Summer's bier,
Dissolve the soul, and draw the tender tear!
Alas! the hospitable hall,
Where youth and friendship played,
The charm is vanished from the vales;
A stranger to his native bowers:
No more Arcadian mountains bloom,
The fancied Eden fades with all its flowers!
Companions of the youthful scene,
*This line originally stood
Starts thy curious voice to hear,'
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 Feeling') in Bruce's Poems, by Rev. W. Mackelvic.
Long-exiled from your native clime,
My steps, when innocent and young,
I mourned the linnet-lover's fate,
Condemned the widowed hours to wail: Or while the mournful vision rose,
I sought to weep for imaged woes,
Alas! misfortune's cloud unkind
All human beauty blast!
The wrath of nature smites our bowers,
And desolate before his time,
In silence sad the mourner walks and weeps!
And friendship's covenant fails!
The bleeding shade, the unlaid ghost?
Their chequered leaves the branches shed;
They sadly sigh that Winter's near:
Nor will I court Lethean streams,
The sorrowing sense to steep; Nor drink oblivion of the themes On which I love to weep. Belated oft by fabled rill, While nightly o'er the hallowed hill Aërial music seems to mourn; I'll listen Autumn's closing strain; Then woo the walks of youth again, And pour my sorrows o'er the untimely urn!
Complaint of Nature.
Few are thy days and full of wo,
Thy doom is written, dust thou art,
Determined are the days that fly
The numbered hour is on the wing
Alas! the little day of life
Is shorter than a span; Yet black with thousand hidden ills To miserable man.