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THE HAPPY LIFE OF A COUNTRY PARSON.
Parson, these things in thy possessing
He that has these, may pass his life,
“SWIFT," says Hume, “has more humour than knowledge, more taste than judgment, and more spleen, prejudice, and passion, than any of those qualities.” Discourse v.
At the hazard of an imputation of partiality to the author, I venture to say, that I prefer a poem, called The Progress of Discontent, to any imitation of Swift, that ever has yet appeared. I shall just add, that the Baucis and Philemon of La Fontaine far excels that of Swift.
EPIS T L E
TO ROBERT EARL OF OXFORD, AND EARL OF
Such were the notes thy once-lov’d Poet sung, Till Death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue. Oh just beheld, and lost! admir'd and mourn'd! With softest manners, gentlest arts adorn'd !
Epistle to Robert Earl of Oxford,] This Epistle was sent to the Earl of Oxford with Dr. Parnelle's Poems published by our Author, after the said Earl's imprisonment in the Tower, and retreat into the country, in the Year 1721. P.
Ver. 1. Such were the notes] The notes were charming indeed! We have few pieces of Poetry superior to Parnelle's Rise of Woman; the Fairy Tale; the Hymn to Contentment; Health, an Eclogue; the Vigil of Venus; the Night-piece on Death ; the Allegory on Man; and the Hermit; of which Johnson speaks too contemptuously. The best account of the original of this last exquisite poem is given in the third volume of the History of English Poetry, p. 31 ; from whence it appears that it was taken from the eightieth chapter of that curious repository of ancient tales, the Gesta Romanorum. The story is related in the fourth volume of Howel's Letters, who says he found it in Sir Philip Herbert's Conceptions; but this fine Apologue was much better related in the Divine Dialogues of Dr. Henry More, Dial. ii. part 1; and Parnelle seems to have copied it chiefly from this Platonic Theologist, who had not less imagination than learning. Pope used to say, that it was originally written in Spanish : from the early connexion between the Spaniards and Arabians, it may be suspected that it was an Oriental tale. Voltaire has inserted it in his Zadig, without mentioning a syllable of the place whence he borrowed it.