1739 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Jonathan Swift

Edward Lonergan, "The Dean and the Country Parson. An Imitation of Virgil, Ecl. I" Gentleman's Magazine 9 (March 1739) 157.



COUNTRY PARSON.
You, happy SWIFT! your wonted wit retain
Beneath a mansion, decent for a DEAN;
While your poor brethren, from their Pulpits driv'n,
Are diffident of aid from ought but HEAV'N:
You fill new volumes with your Stella's name,
And seem grown old in nothing, but in FAME.

DEAN.
A PATRIOT, tho' a minister of state!
A patriot plac'd ME in this calm retreat;
With honest zeal shall my industrious page
Oft, in his favour, force the present age;
To distant periods vindicate his Fame,
Proclaim his worth, and prove what I proclaim:
He fix'd my fortune, and he form'd my song,
As independent of the vulgar throng.

COUNTRY PARSON.
I envy not the blessings you possess,
But wonder Malice cannot make them less;
How in such ticklish times you're suffer'd ink,
And left to speak, ev'n part of what you think!
While we, with fruitless efforts, strive to claim
Raiment for pow'r, and food instead of fame:
Our flocks, alas! on grounds unfit to till,
Best part were ravag'd by the herbage-bill;
Our corn the surly Schismaticks refuse,
Taught by that bench, which grumbles at our dues.
Blest as we are, to catch a dropping crown,
To pay for pipes, or mend a tatter'd gown.
We might have seen, if we had proper fear,
This storm a coming, ere it came so near;
By melancholy Omens pre-advis'd,
For Hoadly publish'd, Whiston advertis'd.—
But name the PATRIOT who discern'd your vein,
And sav'd the land, by making you a DEAN.

DEAN.
London, I thought like some cathedral town,
Where all the sable-brothers of the Gown
At visitation meet; 'tis thus we call,
Whitehall, the Louvre; Bermingham, Whitehall:
Thus are the smallest like the greatest things
Kings like to gods, and viceroys like to kings.
But, London o'er all other towns prevails,
As English prelates, o'er a priest in Wales.

COUNTRY PARSON.
And how were you seduc'd, or with what lure,
To visit London, and to leave your cure?

DEAN.
A love of LIBERTY inflam'd me forth,
Clos'd in a corner of the rugged north;
Compell'd, when half my life was spent in vain,
To seek preferment in a nobler scene;
At court caress'd, the country was forgot,
And, I confess, a parson's barren lot;
Obscur'd my parts, my hopes were in decay,
Nor had my wit sufficient room to play;
Tho' many a pamphlet posted up to town,
Revis'd in vain, for no reward came down.

COUNTRY PARSON.
We wond'red who the general TASTE could hit:
A WIT, without the vanity of wit!
For YOU the courtier read, the hawker flew,
Ev'n wits admir'd, and Will's — was full of you:
YOURS was the press, and Lintot was your own:
A PRIEST! yet prais'd, and envied tho' unknown.

DEAN.
What could I do? bereft of other means,
With only WIT, to force ME from my chains;
And WIT was only valuable there,
There HARLEY first inclin'd a gracious ear:
HARLEY, the pride of no inglorious REIGN,
Employ'd MY PEN, and sent me back, a Dean.

COUNTRY PARSON.
Happy old man! thy revenue secure,
Tho' thy own CHARITY preserve thee poor;
Tho' Ireland, prest beneath a foreign race,
May keep the PATRIOT fretting for her peace:
No poisonous politicks shall blind her eyes,
While YOU can point her, where the poison lies;
Thy piercing pow'r such politicks shall dread,
And if they spread, by violence they spread.

Happy old man! enjoy thy sacred seat,
Yet warm with Patriot, and Poetick heat:
There sooth thy slumber, and indulge thy rest;
Blest! if a nation's prayers can make thee blest:
Whose vows return the Respite, which you gave,
And, snatcht from ruin, save you from the grave.

DEAN.
Bishops shall reckon sacrilege a sin,
And with church-livings cease to glut their kin;
The native Irish shall thro' Scotland roam,
The Chinese wander, Scotchman stay at home,
Ere HARLEY in my breast shall cease to glow,
Or I forget the gratitude I owe.

COUNTRY PARSON.
But we (condemn'd to everlasting toils)
Must search for proselytes in Indian soils;
Banish'd from hence, like felons with reprieves,
To preach the gospel to a den of thieves;
Or with a fiddle eke out a lean cure,
Where, In Welsh mountains, ev'ry priest is poor;
Or up in Kerry, from the world exil'd,
With grief grow quickly, like the natives, wild.

Is there reserv'd, for us, no happy hour,
For wean'd affection, and for ravish'd pow'r,
To fix attention on our antient throne,
The CHURCH retriev'd, the LAIETY our own?
Shall sloven Scotchmen in our pulpits cant?
And Quakers dream, and Anabaptists rant?
Our decent orders shall the foe confuse,
Unrail the table, and the vest disuse?
Go, priest, and labour passages perplext,
Go conn each comment on a crabbed text;
Then count thy gains, distinguish'd with disgrace,
And Beggary entail'd upon thy race.
Farewel, O church! with thy disasters worn,
Thy foes triumphant, and thy friends forlorn;
No more my voice shall rend your sacred wall,
Nor where my duty calls, attend my call;
No folio read, no commentary turn,
Burn all my sermons, my concordance burn.
Since solemn truths, salubrious tenets fail,
Let deists sneer, and presbyterians rail.

DEAN.
You seem to want a lodging by your looks,
And I can give you mutton, and some books;
To night, with ME, you'll mitigate your sorrow,
And for my absent curate preach to morrow.
Now beaux to dress them for the castle rise,
And barber's-boys with powder blind your eyes;
Now ev'ry street begins to crowd with chairs,
And Patrick's bells have summon'd us to pray'rs.