1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Struthers

Anonymous, Review of Struthers, Poems, Moral and Religious (1814) in Christian Observer 13 (August 1814) 520.



These two little volumes are the production of a person originally in low, and even mean circumstances, and who possessed in early life few advantages of education. He enjoyed, however, the blessing of a pious and affectionate mother, who endeavoured to store his mind with the lessons of true wisdom. We were much pleased with the filial tribute paid to her memory, in a few verses written "on visiting the scenes of his youth."

Never more shall meet me there
She, who to a master's air,
Watchful, joined a mother's care,
Still so soft, so tenderly:

No — in solemn silence laid,
Low she rests among the dead,
From the storms for ever hid,
Dark, that dim mortality.

And upon the very spot,
Where was cast her active lot,
Passed her deeds — her worth forgot,
Perished even her memory.

Spirit pure! in bliss divine!
Vain th' attempt for verse of mine
Here thy virtues to inshrine,
Child of meek humility!

Yet, to fame if worth impart
Title true thy feeling heart,
Manners pure devoid of art,
Justly claim celebrity.

Ne'er can I forget the hours,
Closed upon the storm the doors,
When unlooked, thy mental stores
Streamed with sage garrulity;

Teaching man an ancient say,
Useful for life's troublous day,
Many a precious roundelay,—
Many a tale of piety;

Then, engaged, my thoughtless youth
Caught spontaneous from thy mouth,
Warm, the rapturous strains of truth,
Rich, that glad eternity.
Vol. i. pp. 109-111.

His early employment was that of a herdsboy, — a mode of life which, if he had access to books, would afford him many opportunities of indulging his turn for reading. He afterwards quitted the business of tending cattle, and betook himself to the more sedentary occupation of a shoemaker; and when he first became known to the world around him as a poet, he was earning his daily bread as a journeyman in the trade. He now works on his own account; and by his own labour, with the aid of two apprentices, maintains himself and his family. His residence in Glasgow having placed books within his reach, he has diligently availed himself of this advantage, and has found time to study with great care the best writers of the English language. The friend to whom we are indebted for this brief account of our author, has told us, what we had great pleasure in hearing, that he "retains all the simplicity and plainness of his origin, and, above all, is a man of real religion:" and he has added, what these volumes abundantly confirm, that "his writings are deeply imbued with a religious spirit."