1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Grahame

George Barrell Cheever, in Studies in Poetry ... A copious Collection of Elegant Extracts (1830) 236-37.



Grahame was born in Glasgow, and enjoyed from his parents the invaluable privileges of an early religious education. From the grammar school he entered the University of Glasgow, and after passing through the usual course of study, devoted himself to the profession of the law. In his practice as a lawyer he exhibited the virtuous singularity of being unwilling to advocate any cause which was without foundation in equity and truth; when it was manifestly unjust he would return both his brief and fee, and positively refuse to undertake it.

In 1804 he published his poem of the Sabbath, with so much secrecy and caution, that for a long time no individual suspected the author, and he had he satisfaction of hearing its praises repeated in all companies, and of finding his own wife among its warmest admirers. He was so delighted with the enthusiasm of her applause, and with the manner in which she would point out to him its beautiful passages, that at length on one of these occasions he could not avoid confessing himself its author. The Sabbath was followed at different intervals with various other poems.

On the death of his father, Grahame, who had entered the profession of the law chiefly out of respect to the wishes of that parent, turned his attention to the study of Divinity, on which his predilections had always rested, and resolved to give himself up to the service of religion. He was accordingly ordained and appointed to a curacy by the Bishop of Norwich in 1809. After pleasantly describing the situation of his parish in a letter to his friends, he declares himself as happy as he could be at a distance from them, and at the close of a short account of his "temporalities," adds "The church is very ancient and crazy. In the steeple there are three sweet toned bells and an owl."

He died but two years afterwards, enjoying in his last moments the strong consolations of that religion by which his life had been regulated.

Much of Grahame's finest poetry is devotional and religious in its character, and it is all delightful for its excellent moral tendency. The Sabbath is one of the most pleasing poems in the English language. The subject itself, in its very nature, is all poetry, and Grahame has displayed a soft and sweet fancy, a mild enthusiasm for its rural and domestic attractions, and a refined, discriminating taste generally, in the selection and exhibition of its most interesting scenes. The morning of the Sabbath, its progress, its various services and some of its beautiful rites, the feelings with which it is hailed by different classes of men and in various circumstances, its romantic solemnity and sacred power amidst the persecuted covenanters, the Sabbath jubilee of the Jews, the Sabbath evening in Scotland, and many other scenes are pourtrayed with deep feeling and appropriate colouring and imagery.

Many of his minor pieces are excellent. He is simple and unaffected both in thought and language, and his descriptions are natural and just. He exhibits great tenderness of sentiment, which runs through all his writings, and sometimes deepens into a very affecting pathos.