Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney
(National Portrait Gallery, London)

From Astrophel and Stella (1591)

From Arcadia

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The complete sequence Astrophel and Stella (1591) at the University of Oregon.

Sidney's The Defense of Poesie (1595) at the University of Toronto.

Visit Anniina Jokinen's Philip Sidney page.

"Loving in truth..."

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe:
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay;
Invention, Nature's child, fled stepdame Study's blows;
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."

"Not at the first sight..."

Not at the first sight, nor with a dribbed shot,
Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe, will bleed;
But known worth did in mine of time proceed,
Till by degrees it had full conquest got.
I saw and liked; I liked but loved not;
I loved, but straight did not what love decreed;
At length to love's decrees I, forced, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partial lot.
Now even that footstep of lost liberty
Is gone, and now, like slave-born Muscovite,
I call it praise to suffer tyranny;
And now employ the remnant of my wit
To make me self believe that all is well,
While, with a feeling skill, I paint my hell.

"Let dainty wits cry on the sisters nine"

Let dainty wits cry on the sisters nine,
That, bravely masked, their fancies may be told;
Or Pindar's apes flaunt they in phrases fine,
Enam'ling with pied flowers their thoughts of gold;
Or else let them in statelier glory shine,
Ennobling new-found tropes with problems old;
Or with strange similes enrich each line,
Of herbs or beasts which Ind or Afric hold.
For me, in sooth, no Muse but one I know;
Phrases and problems from my reach do grow,
And strange things cost too dear for my poor sprites.
How then? even thus,--in Stella's face I read
What love and beauty be, then all my deed
But copying is, what in her Nature writes.

"It is most true..."

It is most true that eyes are formed to serve
The inward light, and that the heavenly part
Ought to be king, from whose rules who do swerve,
Rebels to nature, strive for their own smart.
It is most true what we call Cupid's dart
An image is which for ourselves we carve,
And, fools, adore in temple of our heart
Till that good god make church and churchman starve.
True, that true beauty virtue is indeed,
Whereof this beauty can be but a shade,
Which elements with mortal mixture breed.
True, that on earth we are but pilgrims made,
And should in soul up to our country move;
True, and yet true that I must Stella love.

"Some lovers speak, when they their muses entertain"

Some lovers speak, when they their muses entertain
Of hopes begot by fear, of wot not what desires,
Of force of heav'nly beams infusing hellish pain,
Of living deaths, dear wounds, fair storms, and freezing fires;
Someone his song in Jove and Jove's strange tales attires,
Bordered with bulls and swans, powdered with golden rain;
Another humbler wit to shepherd's pipe retires,
Yet hiding royal blood full oft in rural vein;
To some a sweetest plaint a sweetest style affords,
While tears pour out his ink, and sighs breathe out his words,
His paper pale despair, and pain his pen doth move.
I can speak what I feel, and feel as much as they,
But think that all the map of my state I display
When trembling voice brings forth that I do Stella love.

"Alas, have I not pain enough"

Alas, have I not pain enough; my friend,
Upon whose breast a fiercer gripe doth tire
Than did on him who first stole down the fire,
While Love on me doth all his quiver spend,
But with your rhubarb words ye must contend,
To grieve me worse, in saying that desire
Doth plunge my well-formed soul even in the mire
Of sinful thoughts which do in ruin end?
If that be sin which doth the manners frame,
Well stayed with truth in word and faith of deed,
Ready of wit and fearing nought but shame;
If that be sin which in fixed hearts doth breed
A loathing of all loose unchastity,
Then love is sin, and let me sinful be.

"You that do search for every purling spring"

You that do search for every purling spring
Which from the ribs of old Parnassus flows,
And every flower, not sweet perhaps, which grows
Near thereabouts into your poesy wring;
You that do dictionary's method bring
Into your rhymes, running in rattling rows;
You that poor Petrarch's long-deceased woes
With new-born sighs and denizened wit do sing;
You take wrong ways, those far-fet helps be such
As do bewray a want of inward touch,
And sure at length stol'n goods do come to light.
But if, both for your love and skill, your name
You seek to nurse at fullest breasts of Fame,
Stella behold, and then begin to endite.

"Fly, fly, my friends..."

Fly, fly, my friends, I have my death wound, fly;
See there that boy, that murth'ring boy, I say,
Who, like a thief, hid in dark bush doth lie
Till bloody bullet get him wrongful prey.
So tyrant he no fitter place could spy,
Nor so fair level in so secret stay,
As that sweet black which veils the heav'nly eye;
There himself with his shot he close doth lay.
Poor passenger, pass now thereby I did,
And stayed, pleased with the prospect of the place,
While that black hue from me the bad guest hid;
But straight I saw motions of lightning grace,
And then descried the glist'ring of his dart;
But ere I could fly thence, it pierced my heart.

"Your words, my friend..."

Your words, my friend, (right healthful caustics) blame
My young mind marred, whom love doth windlass so
That mine own writings, like bad servants, show
My wits quick in vain thoughts, in virtue lame;
That Plato I read for nought but if he tame
Such coltish years; that to my birth I owe
Nobler desires, lest else that friendly foe,
Great expectation, wear a train of shame.
For since mad March great promise made of me,
If now the May of my years much decline,
What can be hoped my harvest time will be?
Sure, you say well, Your wisdom's golden mine
Dig deep with learning's spade. Now tell me this,
Hath this world aught so fair as Stella is?

"Rich fools there be..."

Rich fools there be whose base and filthy heart
Lies hatching still the goods wherein they flow,
And damning their own selves to Tantal's smart,
Wealth breeding want, more blest, more wretched grow.
Yet to those fools heaven such wit doth impart,
As what their hands do hold, their heads do know;
And knowing, love; and loving, lay apart
As sacred things, far from all danger's show.
But that rich fool, who by blind fortune's lot
The richest gem of love and life enjoys,
And can with foul abuse such beauties blot,
Let him, deprived of sweet but unfelt joys,
Exiled for aye from those high treasures which
He knows not, grow in only folly rich!

"You that with allegory's curious frame"

You that with allegory's curious frame
Of others' children changelings use to make,
With me those pains, for God's sake, do not take;
I list not dig so deep for brazen fame.
When I say Stella, I do mean the same
Princess of beauty for whose only sake
The reins of love I love, though never slake,
And joy therein, though nations count it shame.
I beg no subject to use eloquence,
Nor in hid ways do guide philosophy;
Look at my hands for no such quintessence,
But know that I in pure simplicity
Breathe out the flames which burn within my heart,
Love only reading unto me this art.

"Whether the Turkish new moon minded be"

Whether the Turkish new-moon minded be
To fill her horns this year on Christian coast;
How Poles' right king means without leave of host
To warm with ill-made fire cold Muscovy;
If French can yet three parts in one agree;
What now the Dutch in their full diets boast;
How Holland hearts, now so good towns be lost,
Trust in the shade of pleasing Orange-tree;
How Ulster likes of that same golden bit
Wherewith my father once made it half tame;
If in the Scotch Court be no welt'ring yet:
These questions busy wits to me do frame.
I, cumbered with good manners, answer do,
But know not how, for still I think of you.

"With how sad steps..."

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What! may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case:
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call "virtue" there--ungratefulness?

"I might--unhappy word!--oh me, I might"

I might--unhappy word!--oh me, I might
And then would not, or could not, see my bliss,
Till now, wrapped in a most infernal night,
I find how heav'nly day, wretch, I did miss.
Heart, rent thyself, thou dost thyself but right;
No lovely Paris made thy Helen his,
No force, no fraud, robbed thee of thy delight,
Nor fortune of thy fortune author is
But to myself myself did give the blow,
While too much wit, forsooth, so troubled me
That I respects for both our sakes must show,
And yet could not by rising morn foresee
How fair a day was near; oh, punished eyes,
That I had been more foolish--or more wise!

"Come, let me write..."

Come, let me write. And to what end? To ease
A burthened heart. How can words ease, which are
The glasses of thy daily vexing care?
Oft cruel fights well pictured forth do please.
Art not ashamed to publish thy disease?
Nay, that may breed my fame, it is so rare.
But will not wise men think thy words fond ware?
Then be they close, and so none shall displease.
What idler thing than speak and not be heard?
What harder thing than smart and not to speak?
Peace, foolish wit! with wit my wit is marred.
Thus write I, while I doubt to write, and wreak
My harms on ink's poor loss. Perhaps some find
Stella's great powers, that so confuse my mind.

"What may words say, or what may words not say"

What may words say, or what may words not say,
Where truth itself must speak like flattery?
Within what bounds can one his liking stay,
Where nature doth with infinite agree?
What Nestor's counsel can my flames allay,
Since reason's self doth blow the coal in me?
And ah, what hope that hope should once see day,
Where Cupid is sworn page to chastity?
Honor is honored, that thou dost possess
Him as thy slave, and now long-needy Fame
Doth even grow rich, naming my Stella's name.
Wit learns in thee perfection to express,
Not thou by praise, but praise in thee is raised;
It is a praise to praise, when thou art praised.

"My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell"

My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell,
My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labor be;
Listen then, lordings, with good ear to me,
For of my life I must a riddle tell.
Toward Aurora's court a nymph doth dwell,
Rich in all beauties which man's eye can see;
Beauties so far from reach of words that we
Abase her praise saying she doth excel
Rich in the treasure of deserved renown,
Rich in the riches of a royal heart,
Rich in those gifts which give th' eternal crown;
Who, though most rich in these and every part
Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,
Hath no misfortune but that Rich she is.

"Come, Sleep, O Sleep..."

Come, Sleep, O Sleep! the certain knot of peace,
The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

"As good to write as for to lie and groan"

As good to write as for to lie and groan.
O Stella dear, how much thy power hath wrought,
That hast my mind, none of the basest, brought
My still-kept course, while other sleep, to moan;
Alas, if from the height of virtue's throne
Thou canst vouchsafe the influence of a thought
Upon a wretch that long thy grace hath sought,
Weigh then how I by thee am overthrown;
And then think thus--although thy beauty be
Made manifest by such a victory,
Yet noblest conquerors do wrecks avoid.
Since then thou hast so far subdued me,
That in my heart I offer still to thee,
Oh, do not let thy temple be destroyed.

"Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance"

Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtained the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy, France;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance,
Town-folks my strength; a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight which from good use doth rise;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them who did excel in this,
Think nature me a man of arms did make.
How far they shot awry! The true cause is,
Stella looked on, and from her heav'nly face
Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.

"Stella oft sees the very face of woe"

Stella oft sees the very face of woe
Painted in my beclouded stormy face,
But cannot skill to pity my disgrace,
Not though thereof the cause herself she know;
Yet hearing late a fable, which did show
Of lovers never known a grievous case,
Pity thereof gat in her breast such place
That, from the sea derived, tears' spring did flow.
Alas, if fancy, drawn by imaged things
Though false, yet with free scope, more grace doth breed
Than servant's wrack, where new doubts honor brings;
Then think, my dear, that you in me do read
Of lovers' ruin some sad tragedy.
I am not I; pity the tale of me.

"Because I breathe not love to everyone"

Because I breathe not love to everyone,
Nor do not use set colors for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair,
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them who in their lips Love's standard bear,
What, he! say they of me, Now I dare swear
He cannot love; no, no, let him alone.
And think so still, so Stella know my mind;
Profess indeed I do not Cupid's art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
That his right badge is but worn in the heart;
Dumb swans, not chatt'ring pies, do lovers prove;
They love indeed who quake to say they love.

"Muses, I oft invoked your holy aid"

Muses, I oft invoked your holy aid,
With choicest flowers my speech t' engarland so
That it, despised in true but naked show,
Might win some grace in your sweet grace arrayed;
And oft whole troops of saddest words I stayed,
Striving abroad a-foraging to go,
Until by your inspiring I might know
How their black banner might be best displayed.
But now I mean no more your help to try,
Nor other sug'ring of my speech to prove,
But on her name incessantly to cry;
For let me but name her whom I do love,
So sweet sounds straight mine ear and heart do hit,
That I well find no eloquence like it.

"O grammar-rules, O now your virtues show"

O grammar-rules, O now your virtues show;
So children still read you with awful eyes,
As my young dove may, in your precepts wise,
Her grant to me by her own virtue know;
For late, with heart most high, with eyes most low,
I craved the thing which ever she denies;
She, lightning Love displaying Venus' skies,
Lest once should not be heard, twice said, No, No!
Sing then, my muse, now Io Paean sing;
Heav'ns envy not at my high triumphing,
But grammar's force with sweet success confirm;
For grammar says,--oh this, dear Stella, weigh,
For grammar says,--to grammar who says nay?
That in one speech two negatives affirm!

"Who will in fairest book of Nature know"

Who will in fairest book of Nature know
How virtue may best lodg'd in beauty be,
Let him but learn of Love to read in thee,
Stella, those fair lines which true goodness show.
There shall he find all vices' overthrow,
Not by rude force, but sweetest sovranty
Of reason, from whose light those night-birds fly,
That inward sun in thine eyes shineth so.
And, not content to be Perfection's heir
Thyself, dost strive all minds that way to move
Who mark in thee what is in thee most fair.
So while thy beauty draws the heart to love,
As fast that virtue bends that love to good.
But ah, Desire still cries: "Give me some food!"

"My true-love hath my heart and I have his"

My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
His heart in me keeps me and him in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I cherish his because in me it bides.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

"Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare"

Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare,
Fond fancy's scum, and dregs of scattered thought;
Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care;
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought:
Desire, Desire! I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware;
Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought,
Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare,
But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought,
In vain thou mad'st me to vain things aspire,
In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire,
For Virtue hath this better lesson taught:
Within myself to seek my only hire,
Desiring nought but how to kill Desire.
(Compare the above with Shakespeare's Sonnet 129, "Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame".)

"Leave me, O love..."

Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be,
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,
That doth both shine and give us light to see.
O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide
Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath.
Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see:
Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.