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AMBROSE PHILIPS, the pastoral rival of Pope, was educated at Cambridge, and distinguished for many years in London as a member of clubs witty and political, and as a writer for the Whigs'. By the influence of that party he was put into the commission of the peace soon after the accession of George I. and in 1717 was appointed one of the commissioners of the lottery. When his friend Dr. Boulter was appointed primate of Ireland, he accompanied the prelate, received considerable preferments, and was elected member for Armagh in the Irish Commons. He returned to England in the year 1748, and died in the following year, at his lodgings near Vauxhall. The best of his dramatic writings is the Distressed Mother, a translation of Racine's Andromache. His two other tragedies, the Briton and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, are not much better than his pastorals.
COPENHAGEN, MARCH 9, 1709.
From frozen climes, and endless tracts of snow,
From streams which northern winds forbid to flow,
What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring,
Or how, so near the pole, attempt to sing ?
The hoary winter here conceals from sight
All pleasing objects which to verse invite.
The hills and dales, and the delightful woods,
The flowery plains, and silver-streaming floods,
By snow disguis’d, in bright confusion lie,
And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye.
No gentle breathing breeze prepares the spring,
No birds within the desert region sing.
The ships, unmov'd, the boisterous winds defy,
While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly.
The vast leviathan wants room to play,
spout his waters in the face of day.
The starving wolves along the main sea prowl,
And to the moon in icy valleys howl.
O'er many a shining league the level main
Here spreads itself into a glassy plain :
There solid billows of enormous size,
Alps of green ice, in wild disorder rise.
And yet but lately have I seen, ev'n here,
The winter in a lovely dress appear.
Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasur'd snow,
Or winds begun through hazy skies to blow,
At evening a keen eastern breeze arose,
And the descending rain unsullied froze.
Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew,
The ruddy morn disclos'd at once to view
The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd every object to my eyes:
For every shrub, and every blade of grass,
And every pointed thorn, seem'd wrought in glass;
In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns show,
While through the ice the crimson berries glow.
The thick-sprung reeds, which watery marshes
Seem'd polish'd lances in a hostile field.
The stag, in limpid currents, with surprise,
Sees crystal branches on his forehead rise :
The spreading oak, the beech, and towering pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing ether shine.
The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
Which wave and glitter in the distant sun.
When if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies,
The crackling wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled shower the prospect
Or, if a southern gale the region warm,
And by degrees unbind the wintery charm,
The traveller a miry country sees,
And journeys sad beneath the dropping trees:
Liké some deluded peasant, Merlin leads
Through fragrant bowers, and through delicious
While here enchanted gardens to him rise,
And airy fabrics there attract his eyes,
His wandering feet the magic paths pursue,
And, while he thinks the fair illusion true,
The trackless scenes disperse in fluid air,
And woods, and wilds, and thorny ways appear,
A tedious road the
wretch returns, And, as he goes, the transient vision mourns.
FROM THE GREEK OF SAPPHO.
O VENUS, Beauty of the skies,
To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gayly false in gentle smiles,
Full of love-perplexing wiles,
0, goddess! from my heart remove
The wasting cares and pains of love.
If ever thou hast kindly heard
A song in soft distress preferr'd,
Propitious to my tuneful vow,
0, gentle goddess ! hear me now.
Descend, thou bright, immortal guest,
In all thy radiant charms confess'd.
Thou once didst leave almighty Jove,
And all the golden roofs above:
The car thy wanton sparrows drew;
Hovering in air they lightly flew;
As to my bower they wing'd their way, I saw their quivering pinions play.
The birds dismiss'd (while you remain)
Bore back their empty car again :
Then you, with looks divinely mild,
In every heavenly feature smil'd,
And ask'd what new complaints I made,
And why I call'd you to my aid ?
What frenzy in my bosom rag'd,
And by what care to be assuag'd ?
What gentle youth I would allure,
Whom in my artful toils secure ?
Who does thy tender heart subdue,
Tell me, my Sappho, tell me who?
Though now he shuns thy longing arms,
He soon shall court thy slighted charms;
Though now thy offerings he despise,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Though now he freeze, he soon shall burn,
And be thy victim in his turn.
Celestial visitant, once more
Thy needful presence I implore !
In pity come and ease my grief,
Bring my distemper'd soul relief:
Favour thy suppliant's hidden fires,
And give me all my heart desires.