1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Parnell

Anna Brownell Jameson, "Thomas Parnell" Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 367-68.



To Dr. Parnell's love for his wife, (Anne Minchin,) we owe two of the most charming songs in our language; "My life hath been so wondrous free," and that most beautiful lyric, "When your beauty appears," which, as it is less known, I give entire.

When your beauty appears
In its graces and airs,
All bright as an angel new dropt from the skies,
At distance I gaze, and am aw'd by my fears,
So strangely you dazzle my eyes.
But when without art,
Your kind thoughts you impart,
When your love runs in blushes through every vein;
When it darts from your eyes, when it pants at your heart,
Then I know that you're woman again.

"There's a passion and pride
In our sex," she replied;
"And thus, might I gratify both, I would do,—
Still an angel appear to each lover beside,
But still be a woman for you!"

This amiable and beloved wife died after a union of five or six years, and left her husband broken-hearted. Her sweetness and loveliness, and the general sympathy caused by her death, drew a touch of deep feeling from the pen of Swift, who mentions the event in his journal to Stella: "every one," he says, "grieved for her husband, they were so happy together." Poor Parnell did not, in his bereavement, try Lord Lyttelton's specifics: he did not write an elegy, nor a monody, nor did he marry again; — and, unfortunately for himself, he could not subdue his mind to religious resignation. His grief and his nervous irritability proved too much for his reason; he felt, what all have felt under the influence of piercing anguish, — a dread, a horror of being left alone: he flew to society; when that was not at hand, he sought relief from excess which his constitution would not bear, and died, unhappy man! in the prime of life; "a martyr," as Goldsmith tells us, "to conjugal fidelity."