1714 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Health, an Eclogue.

Poems on Several Occasions. Written by Dr. Thomas Parnell, late Arch-Deacon of Clogher: and published by Mr. Pope.

Rev. Thomas Parnell


R. D. Havens notes Thomas Parnell's "use of the structure of "L'Allegro"; Influence of Milton (1922) 444. A stronger connection to the Spenserian tradition appears in a verse catalogue of British pastoralists reprinted from Parnell's MS by Rawson and Lock: "Strong Spencer's Calender, whose Moons appear | To trace their Changes in the rural year; | Sweet Pope whose lays along with Nature run | Through all the seasons which divide ye sun; | The tender Philips lines, who lately tryd | To plant Arcadia by the Severn side; | And gentle Gays that happily explore | Those British Shepheards Spencer sought before" Collected Poems (1989) 403. One may surmise that Parnell's editor, Alexander Pope, cut the passage to suppress the compliment to Ambrose Philips.

Alexander Pope to Thomas Parnell: "In the poems you sent, I will take the liberty you allow me. The story of Pandora, and the Eclogue upon Health, are two of the most beautiful things I ever read. I do not say this to the prejudice of the rest, but as I have read these oftener. Let me know how far my commission is to extend, and be confident of my punctual performance of whatever you enjoin" 1717; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 7:465.

William Hazlitt: "The praise of PARNELL's poetry is, that it was moral, with a tendency towards the pensive; and it was his fortune to be the friend of poets" Select British Poets (1824); Works, ed. Howe (1932) 9:239.

Richard Foster Jones: "From the idea of the Golden Age in the conventional eclogue also was derived the country versus town motif best expressed by Thomson, Goldsmith, and Cowper. The idea of innocence and health was transferred from the Golden Age to a sentimentalized view of contemporary country life. See Parnell's 'Health. An Eclogue'; 'On Rural Felicity' (ascribed to Ambrose Philips); 'A Pastoral Ode on Retirement, or the Pleasures of a Country Life' (Gentleman's Magazine, June 1776); John Scott's 'Theron; or the Praise of Rural Life', and Mrs. Leapor's 'The Month of August. A Pastoral'" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 41n.

A similar MS mention of Spenser was cut by Pope from Parnell's 'The Book Worm," probably for similar reasons: "Now Spencer Milton Driden lift, | Row Steel Pope Addison and Swift" Collected Poems (1989) 518. Still another reference to Spenser appears in the MS poem "Colin" in the Satires Notebook, which opens "Ye tender virgins listen to the strains | With which our skillfull Colin charmd the plains" Collected Poems (1989) 375.



Now early Shepherds o'er the Meadow pass,
And print long Foot-steps in the glittering Grass;
The Cows neglectful of their Pasture stand,
By turns obsequious to the Milker's Hand.

When Damon softly trod the shaven Lawn,
Damon a Youth from City Cares withdrawn;
Long was the pleasing Walk he wander'd thro',
A cover'd Arbour clos'd the distant view;
There rests the Youth, and while the feather'd Throng
Raise their wild Musick, thus contrives a Song.

Here wafted o'er by mild Etesian Air,
Thou Country Goddess, beauteous Health! repair;
Here let my Breast thro' quiv'ring Trees inhale
Thy rosy Blessings with the Morning Gale.
What are the Fields, or Flow'rs, or all I see?
Ah! tastless all, if not enjoy'd with thee.

Joy to my Soul! I feel the Goddess nigh,
The Face of Nature cheers as well as I;
O'er the flat Green refreshing Breezes run,
The smiling Dazies blow beneath the Sun,
The Brooks run purling down with silver Waves,
The planted Lanes rejoice with dancing Leaves,
The chirping Birds from all the Compass rove
To tempt the tuneful Echoes of the Grove:
High sunny Summits, deeply shaded Dales,
Thick Mossy Banks, and flow'ry winding Vales,
With various Prospect gratify the Sight,
And scatter fix'd Attention in Delight.

Come, Country Goddess, come, nor thou suffice,
But bring thy Mountain-Sister, Exercise.
Call'd by thy lively Voice, she turns her Pace,
Her winding Horn proclaims the finish'd Chace;
She mounts the Rocks, she skims the level Plain,
Dogs, Hawks, and Horses, crowd her early Train;
Her hardy Face repels the tanning Wind,
And Lines and Meshes loosely float behind.
All these as Means of Toil the Feeble see,
But these are helps to Pleasure join'd with thee.

Let Sloth lye softning 'till high Noon in Down,
Or lolling fan her in the sult'ry Town,
Unnerv'd with Rest; and turn her own Disease,
Or foster others in luxurious Ease:
I mount the Courser, call the deep mouth'd Hounds,
The Fox unkennell'd flies to covert Grounds;
I lead where Stags thro' tangled Thickets tread,
And shake the Saplings with their branching Head;
I make the Faulcons wing their airy Way,
And soar to seize, or stooping strike their Prey;
To snare the Fish I fix the luring Bait;
To wound the Fowl I load the Gun with Fate.
'Tis thus thro' change of Exercise I range,
And Strength and Pleasure rise from ev'ry Change.
Here beautious Health for all the Year remain,
When the next comes, I'll charm thee thus again.

Oh come, thou Goddess of my rural Song,
And bring thy Daughter, calm Content, along,
Dame of the ruddy Cheek and laughing Eye,
From whose bright Presence Clouds of Sorrow fly:
For her I mow my Walks, I platt my Bow'rs,
Clip my low Hedges, and support my Flow'rs;
To welcome her, this Summer Seat I drest,
And here I court her when she comes to Rest;
When she from Exercise to learned Ease
Shall change again, and teach the Change to please.

Now Friends conversing my soft Hours refine,
And Tully's Tusculum revives in mine:
Now to grave Books I bid the Mind retreat,
And such as make me rather Good than Great.
Or o'er the Works of easy Fancy rove,
Where Flutes and Innocence amuse the Grove:
The native Bard that on Sicilian Plains
First sung the lowly Manners of the Swains;
Or Maro's Muse, that in the fairest Light
Paints rural Prospects and the Charms of Sight;
These soft Amusements bring Content along,
And Fancy, void of Sorrow, turns to Song.
Here beauteous Health for all the Year remain,
When the next comes, I'll charm thee thus again.

[pp. 116-21]