1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Gillespie

Anonymous, "Arrest of a Clergyman for praying for her Majesty" The Star (11 August 1820).



We learn from Galloway, that the Rev. WILLIAM GILLESPIE, Minister of Kells, is about to publish a Discourse, under circumstances that may be well deemed extraordinary. This Reverend Gentleman has for some years acted as Chaplain to the Sewartry Yeomanry, and on Sunday week he preached before the Corps, which was then assembled at Kirkcudbrght, what has been described to us as one of the most loyal and patriotic discourses ever delivered from a pulpit. In his prayer, however, after many Petitions in behalf of his MAJESTY, he added the words "Bless also the QUEEN;" and for this high crime and misdemeanour, he was the same evening placed under military arrest by his Commanding Officer! This proceeding has excited a strong feeling of surprise — perhaps of indignation, particularly among the Members of the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright, who are no strangers to the soundness of Mr. GILLESPIE'S political principles, and who are themselves in the general practice of praying for her MAJESTY. How the matter will end we know not; but we should suppose the Clergy of Scotland will be apt to view the arrest of Mr. GILLESPIE as an insult, offered to the whole Order, especially after the independence of the Kirk of Scotland on this very point — a thing, indeed, that never could be doubted — was so distinctly recognised — in the last General Assembly. The Chaplain of a Regiment is, no doubt, bound to conform himself to the wishes of his Colonel, in as far as regards time and place; but farther than this, no Officer has any right to interfere; and it would certainly be very strange if the wise heads and bold hearts who, in imitation of JOHN KNOX, have never ceased to assert the independence of the Presbyterian form of worship, would concede, to a Military Officer, a power which cannot be claimed even — by the KING upon the Throne. We also understand, that a Yeomanry Corps are only under martial law when called into actual service, and that consequently no Chaplain is liable to be arrested when the Corps in which he happens to officiate is merely assembled for the purpose of training, if this view of the subject be correct, it follows that Mr. GILLESPIE was illegally arrested. Besides, it is quite obvious, that the zeal of the Colonel alluded to must, in the end, defeat its own purpose. A Reverend Gentleman in the same neighbourhood, noted for his talents and loyalty, when asked whether he ever prayed for the QUEEN? replied, "No; but I shall certainly do so the moment I am interdicted;" and several other Clergymen, we understand, who had previously abstained from praying fur her MAJESTY, have since commenced the practice, with the express view of repelling what they conceive to be a practical encroachment on the liberty of the Church!!!

Mr. GILLESPIE, who has been the object of this extraordinary proceeding, is author of a volume of Poems, published with his name a few years ago. The largest of these Poems, entitled "CONSOLATION," is a piece of great beauty, feeling, and interest; and may be read with advantage by more than one distinguished individual at the present moment. We are tempted to add a few lines of extract, that our Readers may know something more of the genius and character of the man who has been so unmeritedly visited with the wrath of a petty authority:

—How sad, in aged breasts, to mark,
Where mellow'd Wisdom should with Virtue reign,
Views that degrade, and passions that debase;
The pangs of Guilt where, conscious Peace should dwell,
And all the sorrows of a life mis-spent!
But, as the radiance of the silver moon
Falls sweet at eve on yonder placid lake,
So sweet and tranquil, on the breast of age,
Comes the remembrance of his virtuous deeds.
———*———*———*———*———
Dark, o'er the Heav'ns, the threat'ning clouds condense;
Dull sets the sun beneath a copper sky;
And boding night her ebon curtain spreads
Along the troubled waves, as high they toss
Their locks of foam!
———*———*———*———*———
'Tis past — the victory's won—
———*———*———*———*———
—Affliction acts
Like springs medicinal, which, to the taste,
Though bitter, are salubrious: like the fire
That proves even while it melts the precious ore.
Trust then in GOD — who trusts in him is blest,—
He'll bear thee, lonely Hermit of the Rock!
Where seas divide not from the friend thou lovest,
Nor disappointed hopes depress thy soul;
Where, come, escaped from Tribulation's sea,
They who shall hunger, or shall thirst no more,
Nor sun afford them light; but them the LAWS
Shall by the streams of living waters lead,
And GOD wipe from their eyes all tears away!