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EPISTLES CRITICAL, &c.
He could not wear his trammels with that art,
Falsely you blame our barren rocks and plains,
Sees for his haughty lord his harvest rise:
In arms we breed our youth. To dart from far, And aim aright the thunder of the war: To whirl the faulchion, and direct the blow; To ward the stroke, or bear upon the foe. Early in hardships through the woods they fly, Nor feel the piercing frost, or wintry sky; Some prowling wolf or foamy boar to meet, And stretch the panting savage at their feet: Inur'd by this, they seek a nobler war, And shew an honest pride in every scar; With joy the danger and the blood partake,
Whilst every wound is for their country's sake.
I envy not your arts, the Roman schools,
Weak are your offers to the free and brave;
CRITICAL AND DIDACTIC.
Page 1. THE Author of this Epistle was descended from the Parnells who had been long seated at Congleton in Cheshire, but on the Restoration withdrew to Ireland, in consequence of their adherence to the Commonwealth party. In the capital of that kingdom our Poet was born in 1676, and, having been instructed in the classics by Dr. Jones, was admitted into Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of thirteen. In July 1700, he took his master's degree and orders; and about four years after was collated by the Bishop of Clogher, to that archdeaconry. Prior, however, to this period, he marrried a Miss Anne Minchin, who was remarkable both for beauty and merit. By her, he had two sons and a daughter. The latter survived him, but both the former died young. The loss of his wife, preyed greatly on his spirits and considerably hastened his own dissolution. Dying on his way to Ireland, at Chester, he was there buried in
Trinity church. Dr. Parnell lived in habits of intimacy with the great and the witty, and was loved and sought after by all who knew him. It appears from Swift's Journal to Stella, that our Author, who was introduced to Bolingbroke, by the Dean, adopted several of his hints for improving this Epistle.
Allegory is in itself so retired a way of writing, that it was thought proper to say something before hand concerning this Piece, which is entirely framed upon it. The design, therefore, is to shew the several styles which have been made use of by those who have endeavored to write in verse. The scheme, by which it is carried on, supposes an old Grecian Poet couching his observations or instructions within an Allegory; which Allegory is wrought out upon the single word Flight, as in the figurative way it signifies a thought above the common level: here Wit is made to be Pegasus, and the Poet his Rider, who flies by several countries where he must not touch, by which are meant so many vicious Styles, and arrives at last at the Sublime. This way of Writing is not only very engaging to the fancy, whenever it is well performed; but it has been thought also one of the first that the Poets made use of. Hence arose many of those stories concerning the Heathen Gods, which at first were invented to insinuate Truth and Morality more pleasingly, and which afterwards made Poetry itself more solemn, when they happened to be received into the Heathen Divinity. And indeed there seems to be no likelier way by which a Poetical Genius may
yet appear as an Original, than that he should proceed with a full compass of thought and knowledge, either to design his plan, or to beautify the parts of it, in an allegorical manner. We are much beholden to Antiquity for those excellent compositions by which Writers at present form their minds; but it is not so much required of us to adhere meerly to their fables, as to observe their manner. For, if we preclude our own invention, Poetry will consist only in expression, or simile, or the application of old stories; and the utmost character to which a Genius can arrive will depend on imitation, or a borrowing from others, which we must agree together not to call stealing, beCause we take only from the Ancients. There have been Poets amongst ourselves, such as Spenser and Milton, who have successfully ventured further. These instances may let us see that Invention is not bounded by what has been done before: they may open our imaginations, and be one method of preserving us from Writing without schemes. As for what relates any further particularly to this Poem, the Reader will observe, that its aim is Instruction. Perhaps a representation of several mistakes and difficulties, which happen to many who write Poetry, may deter some from attempting what they have not been made for: and perhaps the description of several beauties belonging to it may afford hints towards forming a Genius for delighting and improving mankind. If either of these happen, the Poem is useful; and that account its faults may be more easily excused.