Born: March 27, 1746, Kinnesswood, Kinrossshire, Scotland.
Died: July 5, 1767, Kinnesswood, Kinrossshire, Scotland.
Buried: Portmoak Churchyard, Kinrossshire, Scotland.
Son of a weaver, Bruce received his education at the village school, Edinburgh University, and the Theological Hall of the Associate Synod at Kinross, under John Swanston. To support himself during this period, he conducted a school during recess at Gairfield Bridge and later at Forestmill, near Tillicoultry.
He also provided the singing class at Kinnesswood a number of pieces which his father referred to as Gospel Sonnets. Bruce died before completing his studies.
Shortly after Bruce’s death, John Logan, two years younger than Bruce, whom he had met in Edinburgh, procured from Bruce’s father the manuscript volume of Michael’s poems, which he promised to publish.
In 1770, Poems on Several Occasions, by Michael Bruce appeared, containing seventeen of Bruce’s secular poems, including the famous Ode to the Cuckoo. The volume was edited by John Logan, who had become the Minister of South Leith.
Bruce’s father complained that the “Gospel Sonnets” were not included, and asked for the manuscript back, but received no reply. The father went to visit Logan, who replied he feared
that the servants had singed fowls with it. Only a few scraps of the manuscript were returned.
In 1781, Logan published Poems. By the Rev. Mr. Logan, One of the Ministers of Leith under his own name. This volume included several of Bruce’s poems from the earlier volume, including Ode to the Cuckoo and a number of sacred poems.
Many of Bruce’s classmates, as well as his brother James, recognized the poems as those they had sung under Bruce before his death. In addition, Logan had recast a number of these poems to be included in Scottish Translations and Paraphrases in the same year.
This resulted in a lawsuit which compelled Logan to resign his post at Leith and move to London, where he had to support himself solely by his own pen.
† Recast by James Logan in Scottish Translations and Paraphrases, according to research by Mackelvie (Life of Bruce, 1837) and Grossart (Works of Bruce, 1865)
‡ Attributed to Bruce by Grossart
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