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CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON.
This beautiful copy of a beautiful original makes us regret, that Dryden had not translated the whole Introductior to the “ Canterbury Tales,” in which the pilgrims are so admira y described. Something might have been lost for want of the ancient Gothic lore, which the writers of our poet's period did not think proper to study ; but when Dryden's learning failed, his native stores of fancy and numbers would have helped him through the task.
“ The Character of the Good Priest” may be considered as an amende honorable to the reverend order whom Dryden bad often satirised, and he himself seems to wish it to be viewed in that light. See Preface, p. 225. With a freedom which he has frequently employed elsewhere, Dryden has added the last forty lines, in which, availing himself of the Revolution, which in Chaucer's time placed Henry IV. on the throne, he represents the political principles of his priest as the same with those of the non-juring clergy of his own day. Indeed, the whole piece is greatly en larged upon Chaucer's sketch.
A GOOD PARSON.
A Parish priest was of the pilgrim train ;
For, letting down the golden chain from high,
To threats the stubborn sinner oft is hard, Wrapp'd in his crimes, against the storm prepared; But when the milder beams of mercy play, He melts, and throws his cumbrous cloak away. Lightnings and thunder, (heaven's artillery,) As harbingers before the Almighty fly: Those but proclaim his style, and disappear; The stiller sound succeeds, and God is there.
The tithes, his parish freely paid, he took, But never sued, or cursed with bell and book ; With patience bearing wrong, but offering none, Since every man is free to lose his own. The country churls, according to their kind, (Who grudge their dues, and love to be behind,) The less he sought his offerings, pinch'd the more, And praised a priest contented to be poor.
Yet of his little he had some to spare, To feed the famish'd, and to clothe the bare ; For mortified he was to that degree, A poorer than himself he would not see. True priests, he said, and preachers of the word, Were only stewards of their sovereign Lord;
Nothing was theirs, but all the public store;
Wide was his parish; not contracted close
All this, the good old man perform'd alone, Nor spared his pains; for curate he had none.
s Nor durst he trust another with his care; Nor rode himself to Paul's, the public fair, To chaffer for preferment with his gold, Where bishoprics and sinecures are sold ; But duly watch'd his flock by night and day, And from the prowling wolf redeem'd the prey, And hungry sent the wily fox away.
The proud he tamed, the penitent he cheerd;
The prelate, for his holy life he prized ;
Patience in want, and poverty of mind,
Not but he knew the signs of earthly power
plain.* Such was the saint, who shone with every grace, Reflecting, Moses-like, his Maker's face. God saw his image lively was express'd; And his own work, as in creation, bless'd.
The tempter saw him too with envious eye, And, as on Job, demanded leave to try. He took the time when Richard was deposed, And high and low with happy Harry closed. This prince, though great in arms, the priest with
stood : Near though he was, yet not the next of blood. Had Richard, unconstrain'd, resign’d the throne, A king can give no more than is his own: The title stood entail'd, had Richard had a son.
Conquest, an odious name, was laid aside; Where all submitted, none the battle tried. The senseless plea of right by Providence Was, by a flattering priest, invented since ;
This passage is obviously introduced by the author, to apologize for the splendid establishment of the clergy of his own community. What follows, applies, as has been noticed, to the non-juring clergy, who lost their benefices for refusing the oath of allegiance to King William.