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He hy'd him to the fatal place
And stretch'd him on the green-grass turf,
And thrice he call'd on Margaret's name,
Then laid his cheek to her cold grave,
AMBROSE PHILLIPS, descended from an ancient family in Leicestershire, was born in 1671; but of the early part of his life we have no account. He received his academical education at St. John's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow, and here he first tried his poetical powers, in the collection of Cambridge verses, on the death of Queen Mary. It is also probable, that he wrote his once celebrated pastorals, while studying on the banks of the Cam.
His "Winter Piece," addressed to the Duke of Dorset, from Copenhagen, one of the finest descriptive poems in the English language, shews that he was a traveller, but on what account he visited the north, is now unknown. He afterwards became an author by profession; and performed several jobs for Tonson, for which Pope ridicules him, as if writing for money were any disgrace, and as if his own productions had been free gifts to the public.
In 1712, Phillips produced his celebrated tragedy of the "Distressed Mother," altered from Racine's Andromaque, which was performed with almost unexampled applause. His tragedies of "the Briton" and of "Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester," were not wholly unsuccessful, but they are now little read.
His Pastorals, though they have more of nature than some other compositions of the same class, are entitled to little praise. Their commendation, however, in the Guardian excited the enmity of Pope, and he revenged himself by the most artful piece of irony that perhaps ever was written. Indeed, Pope and Phillips equally disagreed in politics as in poetry: the former was a tory, the latter a zealous whig.
The political sentiments of Phillips procured him, however, some notice. On the accession of George I. he was made a commissioner of the Lottery, and a Justice of the Peace for Westminster. But this did not satisfy his ambition; and having formed a connection with Dr. Boulter, who became primate of Ireland, he removed to that country, gained considerable preferment, and was elected a member of parliament in Ireland.
On the death of his patron, he returned to England in 1748, with a fortue equal to his moderate wishes; but soon after, a stroke of the palsy brought him to the grave, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. Of his poetry, a few pieces are exquisite. Concerning the man we know little; and certainly nothing to his discredit.
TO THE HONOURABLE
BLOOM of beauty, early flower
Ere thy beauties, kindling flow, In each finish'd feature glow, Ere, in smiles and in disdain, Thou exert thy maiden reign, Absolute, to save or kill Fond beholders, at thy will. Then the taper-moulded waste With a span of ribbon brac'd, And the swell of either breast, And the wide high-vaulted chest, And the neck so white and round, Little neck with brilliants bound, And the store of charms which shine Above, in lineaments divine, Crowded in a narrow space To complete the desperate face, These alluring powers, and more, Shall enamour'd youths adore; These, and more, in courtly lays, Many an aching heart shall praise. Happy thrice, and thrice again, Happiest he of happy men, Who, in courtship greatly sped, Wins the damsel to his bed, Bears the virgin-prize away, Counting life one nuptial day: For the dark-brown dusk of hair, Shadowing thick thy forehead fair, Down the veiny temples growing O'er the sloping shoulders flowing; And the smoothly pencil'd brow, Mild to him in every vow; And the fringed lid below, Thin as thinnest blossoms blow; And the hazely lucid eye, Whence heart-winning glances fly; And that cheek of health, o'erspread With soft-blended white and red; And the witching smiles which break Round these lips, which sweetly speak; And thy gentleness of mind, Gentle from a gentle kind;