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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Fables Ancient and Modern
The Character of a Good Parson
 
Imitated from Chaucer and Inlarg’d

A PARISH-PRIEST 1 was of the Pilgrim-Train;
An Awful, Reverend, and Religious Man.
His Eyes diffus’d a venerable Grace,
And Charity it self was in his Face.
Rich was his Soul, though his Attire was poor;        5
(As God had cloath’d his own Embassador;)
For such, on Earth, his bless’d Redeemer bore.
Of Sixty Years he seem’d; and well might last
To Sixty more, but that he liv’d too fast;
Refin’d himself to Soul, to curb the Sense;        10
And made almost a Sin of Abstinence.
Yet, had his Aspect nothing of severe,
But such a Face as promis’d him sincere.
Nothing reserv’d or sullen was to see,
But sweet Regards; and pleasing Sanctity:        15
Mild was his Accent, and his Action free.
With Eloquence innate his Tongue was arm’d;
Tho’ harsh the Precept, yet the Preacher charm’d;
For, letting down the golden Chain from high,
He drew his Audience upward to the Sky:        20
And oft, with holy Hymns, he charm’d their Ears
(A Musick more melodious than the Spheres.)
For David left him, when he went to rest,
His Lyre; and after him, he sung the best.
He bore his great Commission in his Look:        25
But sweetly temper’d Awe, and soften’d all he spoke.
He preach’d the Joys of Heav’n and Pains of Hell;
And warn’d the Sinner with becoming Zeal;
But on Eternal Mercy lov’d to dwell.
He taught the Gospel rather than the Law:        30
And forc’d himself to drive; but lov’d to draw.
For Fear but freezes Minds; but Love, like Heat,
Exhales the Soul sublime, to seek her Native Seat.
  To Threats, the stubborn Sinner oft is hard,
Wrap’d in his Crimes, against the Storm prepar’d;        35
But, when the milder Beams of Mercy play,
He melts, and throws his cumb’rous Cloak away.
  Lightnings and Thunder (Heav’ns Artillery)
As Harbingers before th’ Almighty fly:
Those, but proclaim his Stile, and disappear;        40
The stiller Sound succeeds; and God is there.
  The Tythes, his Parish freely paid, he took;
But never Su’d; or Curs’d with Bell and Book.
With Patience bearing wrong; but off’ring none:
Since every Man is free to lose his own.        45
The Country-Churles, according to their Kind,
(Who grudge their Dues, and love to be behind,)
The less he sought his Off’rings, pinch’d the more;
And prais’d a Priest, contented to be Poor.
  Yet, of his little, he had some to spare,        50
To feed the Famish’d, and to cloath the Bare:
For Mortify’d he was to that degree,
A poorer than himself, he wou’d not see
True Priests, he said, and Preachers of the Word,
Were only Stewards of their Soveraign Lord,        55
Nothing was theirs; but all the publick Store,
Intrusted Riches to relieve the Poor.
Who, shou’d they steal, for want of his Relief
He judg’d himself Accomplice with the Thief.
  Wide was his Parish; not contracted close        60
In Streets, but here and there a straggling House;
Yet still he was at Hand, without Request
To serve the Sick; to succour the Distress’d;
Tempting, on Foot, alone, without affright,
The Dangers of a dark, tempestuous Night.        65
  All this the good old Man perform’d alone,
Nor spar’d his pains; for Curate he had none.
Nor durst he trust another with his Care;
Nor rode himself to Pauls, the publick Fair,
To chaffer for Preferment with his Gold,        70
Where Bishopricks, and sine Cures are sold.
But duly watch’d his Flock, by Night and Day;
And from the prowling Wolf, redeem’d the Prey,
And hungry sent the wily Fox away.
  The Proud he tam’d, the Penitent he chear’d:        75
Nor to rebuke the rich Offender fear’d.
His Preaching much, but more his Practice wrought;
(A living Sermon of the Truths he taught;)
For this by Rules severe his Life he squar’d:
That all might see the Doctrin which they heard.        80
For Priests, he said, are Patterns for the rest:
(The Gold of Heav’n, who bear the God Impress’d:)
But when the precious Coin is kept unclean,
The Soveraign’s Image is no longer seen.
If they be foul, on whom the People trust,        85
Well may the baser Brass contract a rust.
  The Prelate for his Holy Life he priz’d;
The worldly Pomp of Prelacy despis’d.
His Saviour came not with a gawdy Show,
Nor was his Kingdom of the World below.        90
Patience in Want, and Poverty of Mind,
These Marks of Church and Churchmen he design’d,
And living taught; and dying left behind.
The Crown he wore was of the pointed Thorn:
In Purple he was Crucify’d, not born.        95
They who contend for Place and high Degree,
Are not his Sons, but those of Zebadee.
  Not, but he knew the Signs of Earthly Pow’r
Might well become St. Peter’s Successor;
The Holy Father holds a double Reign,        100
The Prince may keep his Pomp; the Fisher must be plain.
  Such was the Saint; who shone with every Grace:
Reflecting, Moses-like, his Maker’s Face.
God saw his Image lively was express’d;
And his own Work, as in Creation, bless’d.        105
  The Tempter saw him too, with envious Eye,
And, as on Job, demanded leave to try.
He took the time when Richard was depos’d,
And High and Low with happy Harry clos’d.
This Prince, tho’ great in Arms, the Priest withstood,        110
Near tho’ he was, yet not the next of Blood.
Had Richard unconstrain’d, resign’d the Throne,
A King can give no more than is his own:
The Title stood entail’d, had Richard had a Son.
  Conquest, an odious Name, was laid aside,        115
Where all submitted, none the Battle try’d.
The senseless Plea of Right by Providence,
Was, by a flatt’ring Priest, invented since:
And lasts no longer than the present sway;
But justifies the next who comes in play.        120
  The People’s Right remains; let those who dare
Dispute their Pow’r, when they the Judges are.
  He join’d not in their Choice; because he knew
Worse might, and often did from Change ensue.
Much to himself he thought; but little spoke:        125
And, Undepriv’d, his Benefice forsook.
  Now, through the Land, his Cure of Souls he stretch’d,
And like a Primitive Apostle preach’d.
Still Chearful; ever Constant to his Call;
By many follow’d; Lov’d by most, Admir’d by All.        130
With what he beg’d, his Brethren he reliev’d;
And gave the Charities himself receiv’d;
Gave, while he Taught; and Edify’d the more,
Because he shew’d by Proof, ’twas easy to be Poor.
  He went not, with the Crowd, to see a Shrine;        135
But fed us by the way, with Food divine.
  In deference to his Virtues, I forbear
To show you, what the rest in Orders were
This Brillant 2 is so Spotless, and so Bright,
He needs no Foyl: But shines by his own proper Light.        140
 
Note 1. Text from the original and only contemporary edition, 1700. [back]
Note 2. Brillant] The editors wrongly print Brilliant. [back]
 
 
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