Of English descent, Parnell (1689-1718) was born in Dublin. He became archdeacon of Clogher, and Swift got for him the appointment of vicar of Finglas. He was the friend of Pope, and assisted him in the translation of Homer. The Hermit is the poem for which Parnell still maintains a respectable rank among English poets; but there are other poems of considerable merit from his pen. Pope collected and published them all in 1721, dedicating them to Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, who had been Parnell's friend. In his dedication, Pope says:
Such were the notes thy once-loved poet sung,
Till death untimely stopped his tuneful tongue.
O just beheld and lost! admired and mourned!
With softest manners, gentlest arts adorned!
Blest in each science, blest in every strain!
Dear to the Muse, to Harley dear — in vain!
The Hermit is a modern version of a tale from the Gesta Romanorum, which was the name of a mediaeval collection of Latin tales, moralized for the use of preachers, each tale having a religious "application" fitted to it.