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A Riddle

Thomas Parnell 1679 (Dublin) – 1718



Upon a Bed of humble clay
In all her Garments loose
A Prostitute my Mother lay
To ev'ry Comer's use.
'Till one Gallant in heat of love
His Own Peculiar made her
And to a Region far above
And softer Beds convey'd her.
But in his Absence, to his Place
His rougher Rival came
And with a cold constrain'd Embrace
Begat me on the Dame.
I then appear'd to Publick View
A Creature wondrous bright
But shortly perishable too
Inconstant, nice and light.
On Feathers not together fast
I wildly flew about
And from my Father's country past
To find my Mother out.
Where her Gallant of her beguil'd
With me enamour'd grew
And I that was my Mother's Child
Brought forth my Mother too.

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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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