An Essay On The Different Stiles Of Poetry

Thomas Parnell 1679 (Dublin) – 1718

To Henry, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke.

I hate the Vulgar with untuneful Mind,
Hearts uninspir'd, and Senses unrefin'd.
Hence ye Prophane, I raise the sounding String,
And Bolingbroke descends to hear me sing.

When Greece cou'd Truth in Mystick Fable shroud,
And with Delight instruct the list'ning Crowd,
An ancient Poet (Time has lost his Name)
Deliver'd Strains on Verse to future Fame.
Still as he sung he touch'd the trembling Lyre,
And felt the Notes a rising Warmth inspire.
Ye sweet'ning Graces in the Musick Throng,
Assist my Genius, and retrieve the Song
From dark Oblivion. See, my Genius goes
To call it forth. 'Twas thus the Poem rose.

Wit is the Muses Horse, and bears on high
The daring Rider to the Muses Sky:
Who, while his strength to mount aloft he tries,
By Regions varying in their Nature, flies.

At first he riseth o'er a Land of Toil,
A barren, hard, and undeserving Soil,
Where only Weeds from heavy Labour grow,
Which yet the Nation prune, and keep for show.
Where Couplets jingling on their Accent run,
Whose point of Epigram is sunk to Pun.
Where Wings by Fancy never feather'd fly,
Where Lines by measure form'd in Hatchets lie;
Where Altars stand, erected Porches gape,
And Sense is cramp'd while Words are par'd to shape;
Where mean Acrosticks labour'd in a Frame,
On scatter'd Letters raise a painful Scheme;
And by Confinement in their Work controul
The great Enlargings of the boundless Soul.
Where if a Warriour's elevated Fire
Wou'd all the brightest Strokes of Verse require,
Then streight in Anagram a wretched Crew
Will pay their undeserving Praises too;
While on the rack his poor disjointed Name
Must tell its Master's Character to Fame.
And (if my Fire and Fears aright presage)
The lab'ring Writers of a future Age
Shall clear new ground, and Grotts and Caves repair,
To civilize the babbling Ecchoes there.
Then while a Lover treads a lonely Walk,
His Voice shall with its own Reflection talk,
The closing Sounds of all the vain Device,
Select by trouble frivolously nice,
Resound through Verse, and with a false Pretence
Support the Dialogue, and pass for Sense.
Can things like these to lasting Praise pretend?
Can any Muse the worthless Toil befriend?
Ye sacred Virgins, in my Thoughts ador'd,
Ah, be for ever in my Lines deplor'd!
If Tricks on Words acquire an endless Name,
And Trifles merit in the Court of Fame.

'At this the Poet stood concern'd a while,
'And view'd his Objects with a scornful Smile:
'Then other Images of diff'rent kind,
'With diff'rent Workings enter'd on his Mind;
'At whose Approach he felt the former gone,
'And shiver'd in Conceit, and thus went on.

By a cold Region next the Rider goes,
Where all lies cover'd in eternal Snows;
Where no bright Genius drives the Chariot high,
To glitter on the Ground, and gild the Sky.
Bleak level Realm, where Frigid Stiles abound,
Where never yet a daring Thought was found,
But counted Feet is Poetry defin'd;
And starv'd Conceits that chill the Reader's Mind
A little Sense in many Words imply,
And drag with loit'ring numbers slowly by.
Here dry sententious Speeches half asleep,
Prolong'd in Lines, o'er many Pages creep;
Nor ever shew the Passions well exprest,
Nor raise like Passions in another's Breast.
Here flat Narrations fair Exploits debase,
In Measures void of ev'ry shining Grace;
Which never arm their Hero for the Field,
Nor with Prophetick Story paint the Shield,
Nor fix the Crest, or make the Feathers wave,
Or with their Characters reward the Brave;
Undeck'd they stand, and unadorn'd with Praise,
And fail to profit while they fail to please.
Here forc'd Description is so strangely wrought,
It never stamps its Image on the Thought;
The liveless Trees may stand for ever bare,
And Rivers stop, for ought the Readers care;
They see no Branches trembling in the Woods,
Nor hear the Murmurs of encreasing Floods,
Which near the Roots with ruffled Waters flow,
And shake the shadows of the Boughs below.
Ah sacred Verse, replete with heav'nly Flame,
Such cold Endeavours wou'd invade thy Name!
The Writer fondly wou'd in these survive,
Which wanting Spirit never seem'd alive:
But if Applause or Fame attend his Pen,
Let breathless Statues pass for breathing Men.

'Here seem'd the Singer touch'd at what he sung,
'And Grief a while delay'd his Hand and Tongue:
'But soon he check'd his Fingers, chose a Strain,
'And flourish'd shrill, and thus arose again.

Pass the next Region which appears to show,
'Tis
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Thomas Parnell

Thomas Parnell was an Anglo-Irish poet and clergyman who was a friend of both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. He was the son of Thomas Parnell of Maryborough, Queen's County now Port Laoise, County Laoise}, a prosperous landowner who had been a loyal supporter of Cromwell during the English Civil War and moved to Ireland after the restoration of the monarchy. Thomas was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and collated archdeacon of Clogher in 1705. He however spent much of his time in London, where he participated with Pope, Swift and others in the Scriblerus Club, contributing to The Spectator and aiding Pope in his translation of The Iliad. He was also one of the so-called "Graveyard poets": his 'A Night-Piece on Death,' widely considered the first "Graveyard School" poem, was published posthumously in Poems on Several Occasions, collected and edited by Alexander Pope and is thought by some scholars to have been published in December of 1721 (although dated in 1722 on its title page, the year accepted by The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature; see 1721 in poetry, 1722 in poetry). It is said of his poetry 'it was in keeping with his character, easy and pleasing, ennunciating the common places with felicity and grace. more…

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"An Essay On The Different Stiles Of Poetry" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 12 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/36992/an-essay-on-the-different-stiles-of-poetry>.

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