Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 33. Michael Bruce and John Logan; The Cuckoo; James Grahame

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

X. Burns

§ 33. Michael Bruce and John Logan; The Cuckoo; James Grahame

By the side of the purely secular verse of the revival there also flourished intermittently a kind of school of sacred verse of which the earliest and most elaborate specimen is Blair’s Grave, noted elsewhere. A chronic controversy still prevails in Scotland as to the authorship of several of the metrical paraphrases of Scripture adopted by the general assembly of the church of Scotland in 1781. Two students of humble birth, Michael Bruce and John Logan, studied together at Edinburgh university. Bruce died in 1767, at the age of twenty-one; and, in 1770, Logan published, from papers supplied by the family, Poems on Several Occasions by Michael Bruce, with the information that “with a view to make up a miscellany some poems wrote by different authors are inserted.” In 1781, Logan, now minister of South Leith parish, published a volume of poems containing an improved version of The Cuckoo, which had appeared in Bruce’s volume, and a number of the paraphrases adopted by the church of Scotland. The Cuckoo and the paraphrases have been claimed for Bruce; but Logan’s Braes of Yarrow and other poems in the volume show as great poetic aptitude as any pieces by Bruce. In 1783, Logan’s tragedy Runnamede was accepted for Covent garden theatre, but was condemned by the censor on account of its political allusions. Among Bruce’s poems is one on loch Leven, after the manner of Thomson, and an Elegy on Spring, a pious farewell to nature in view of his approaching death from consumption. James Grahame, a native of Glasgow, who, finally, became curate at Sedgefield, Durham, published various volumes of verse, including the dramatic poem Mary Queen of Scots (1801), and The Birds of Scotland (1806), but is best known by his meditative poem The Sabbath (1804), in blank verse, in which commonplace musing and pattern sentiments are conjoined with elegant and tasteful, if rather tedious, description.