« ПретходнаНастави »
CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON.
THIS beautiful copy of a beautiful original makes us regret, that Dryden had not translated the whole Introduction to the "Canterbury Tales," in which the pilgrims are so admirably 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 had often satirized, 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 enlarged 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, Wrapped 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, pinched the more, And praised a priest contented to be poor.
Yet of his little he had some to spare,
To feed the famished, and to clothe the bare;
Nothing was theirs, but all the public store ;
All this, the good old man performed alone, Nor spared his pains; for curate he had none. 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 watched his flock by night and day, And from the prowling wolf redeemed the prey, And hungry sent the wily fox away.
The proud he tamed, the peritent he cheered; Nor to rebuke the rich offender feared. His preaching much, but more his practice wrought; (A living sermon of the truths he taught;) For this by rules severe his life he squared, That all might see the doctrine which they heard. For priests, he said, are patterns for the rest; (The gold of heaven, who bear the God impressed ;) But when the precious coin is kept unclean, The Sovereign's image is no longer seen. If they be foul on whom the people trust, Well may the baser brass contract a rust.
The prelate, for his holy life he prized; The worldly pomp of prelacy despised; His Saviour came not with a gaudy show, Nor was his kingdom of the world below.
Patience in want, and poverty of mind,
Not but he knew the signs of earthly power
Such was the saint, who shone with every grace,
The tempter saw him too with envious eye,
Near though he was, yet not the next of blood.
* 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 nonjuring clergy, who lost their benefices for refusing the oath of allegiance to King William.