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Who but the swallow now triumphs alone ?
PARNELL. THOMAS PARNELL, born in Ireland A.D. 1679, was educated in the University of Dublin. Becoming a clergyman, he was made Arch. deacon of Clogher, and attained much fame by the eloquence of his preaching. He suffered from constitutional depression of spirits, especially after the early death of his wife, to whom he was deeply attached; and died a.d. 1717. His poetry has much felicity of diction and a high finish.
HYMN TO CONTENTMENT.
Ambition searches all its sphere
No real happiness is found
Lovely, lasting peace, appear;
'Twas thus, as under shade I stood,
Oh! by yonder mossy seat,
The sun that walks his airy way,
The field whose ears conceal the grain,
Go search among your idle dreams,
LIKE Parnell, William Congreve was an Irishman. He was born A.D. 1669. Settling at an early age in London, he rapidly acquired an almost unequalled social popularity, and a fame as a dramatist far beyond what he deserved, or has maintained; for the sparkling wit of his plays atones neither for their immorality nor for their negative faults-a deficiency in imagination, passion, and human interest. Congreve was spoilt by his success, and sacrificed virtue, genius, and permanent fame for the gratification of vanity. He died A.D. 1729.
A CATHEDRAL. Almeria meeting her husband Alphonso, whom she had imagined to be dead, now disguised as the captive Osmyn, at the tomb of his father Anselmo.
Enter Almeria and Leonora.
Alm. It was thy fear, or else some transient wind
Alm No, all is hush'd, and still as death 'tis dreadful ! How reverend is the face of this tall pile, Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads, To bear aloft its arch'd and ponderous roof, By its own weight made stedfast and immovable, Looking tranquillity. It strikes an awe And terror on my aching sight; the tombs And monumental caves of death look cold,
And shoot, a chillness to my trembling heart.
Leon. Let us return; the horror of this place,
Alm. It may my fears, but cannot add to that.
Leon. I go; but heaven can tell with what regret.
POPE. ALEXANDER POPE was born in London A.D. 1688. His family was, as he tells us,
“Of gentle blood, part shed in honour's cause." He was brought up chiefly at Binfield, where his father, who had acquired a moderate independence as a merchant, possessed a house and a few acres of land. His earliest education was confided to the care of a Catholic priest who lived in the neighbourhood; and it was afterwards carried on by the persevering energy of the poet himself with little assistance. Through the kindness of Sir William Tiurnbull, Pope was early introduced to various men of eminence in literature, who detected his abilities, and encouraged him. Before the age of twenty-seven he had published a considerable proportion of his poetry, and gained the applause of Swift, Bolingbroke, Gay, Addison, Steele, Congreve, and nearly all the literary and political celebrities of the time. Finding the gaieties of a club-life in London unfavourable to his health and studies, Pope abandoned the metropolis for Twickenham. He induced his father and mother to spend their declining years with him there; his mother, whom he cherished with the most devoted filial picty, surviving till the age of
* This is the passage that Johnson admired so much. “Congreve," he said, “has one finer passage than any that can be found in Shakespeare."
ninety-three years. It was on her death that Swift said to the poet, while condoling with him, “ you are the most dutiful son I have ever known or heard of; which is a felicity not happening to one in a million.” Pope's later life was spent at his villa, with the adornment of which he occupied himself; and where public men, like Lord Peterborough and Bolingbroke, and divines, like Swift and Warburton, were glad to join the poet in working at his grotto, or pruning his fruit trees. To humbler friends Pope was not less steady in his attachments; especially to the sisters Martha and Theresa Blount, and the Allens, whom he used to visit at Prior Park, Bath. Unfortunately he was not above the littleness of indulging in literary animosities, by which his temper was embittered, and much both of time and genius thrown away. Of this weakness his Dunciad remains a monument; a poem inferior to nothing he has left, as to power, but nearly deprived of value by the pettiness and ephemeral nature of the theme. Pope died A.D. 1741, and was interred, as his parents had been, in the church of Twickenham; although he, as well as they, had died in the Catholic religion. His villa has long since been demolished, and replaced by a new one, with which his name is associated. His grave has not escaped better. On the occasion of some alteration made in the church, the coffin of Pope, known by the inscription which his friend Bishop Warburton had placed near it, was dug up; and his skull is now in the collection of a phrenologist.
The merit of Pope's poetry has long been a matter of dispute among critics. That its interest is not derived from its affinity with nature is undeniable; but not less certain is it that, amid poetry of the artificial order, it must maintain a very high place. In executive skill, in polish, terseness, and tact, and in refinement of thought, though not of feeling, it is admirable; while in brilliancy of fancy it can hardly be surpassed. It possesses also a high degree of energy and eloquence; but the latter is rhetorical rather than of that kind which genuine passion inspires. Pope's power of discussing philosophic questions in verse is striking; but unfortunately his philosophy was but the philosophy of his day, and has in it more of speciousness than of depth or solidity. As a satirist his field was manners, not character; and in that field he is ever felici. tous. In lyrical poetry he has but done enough to show that it was not his line; a remark that applies to his pastorals also. Of his religion we find even less in Pope's poetry than of nature; for, with all its stately pomp of versification. its vehemence, energy, and declamatory pathos, his Eloisa to Abelard must ever be repulsive to a Catholic, as well as distasteful to a sound moralist. Pope is, however, a great poet, and, in his own way, a singularly perfect one, when all due deductions have been made from exaggerated praise. His works mark a special era in English literature, when criticism and poetry became united, and the didactic vein began to supersede all others. The modern poets of France were the models on whom Pope had mainly formed his style. In imitating he surpassed them; in itself no small praise.