Elizabethan Sonnet Month
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
Born: Penshurst, Kent, England 1554
Died: Zutphen, Netherlands 1586
1564: Entered Shrewsbury School
1568-1571: Attended Christ College, Oxford. Completed his education by travelling Europe.
1575: Returned to England to serve as a courtier to Elizabeth I
1577: Ambassador to the German Emperor and the Prince of Orange
1580: Incurred the displeasure of Elizabeth I by opposing her projected marriage.
1583: Married Lady Francis Walsingham; the had one daughter.
1585: Appointed governer of Flushing, Netherlands.
1586: Wounded in a skirmish with the Spanish at Zutphen, Neherlands, died 22 days later from the wound.
Astrophel and Stella
Sonnets 1 - 10
Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, 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 sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay ;
Invention, nature's child, fled step-dame 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.
Sonnet 2Not at first sight, nor with a dribbèd 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 lovèd 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 myself believe that all is well,
While with a feeling skill I paint my hell.
Sonnet 3Let 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 with 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.
Sonnet 4Vertue, alas, now let me take some rest;
Thou set'st a bate between my will and wit;
If vaine Love have my simple soule opprest,
Leave what thou likest not, deale not thou with it.
Thy scepter use in some olde Catoe's brest,
Churches or schooles are for thy seate more fit:
I do confesse—pardon a fault confest—
My mouth too tender is for thy hard bit.
But if that needs thou wilt usurping be
The little reason that is left in me,
And still th' effect of thy perswasions prove,
I sweare, my heart such one shall shew to thee,
That shrines in flesh so true a deitie,
That, Vertue, thou thy selfe shalt be in love.
Sonnet 5It 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 doth 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.
Sonnet 6Some lovers speak, when they their Muses entertain,
Of hopes begot by fear, of wot not what desires,
Of force of heavenly 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 dispair, 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.
Sonnet 7When Nature made her chief work, Stella's eyes,
In color black why wrapped she beams so bright?
Would she in beamy black, like painter wise,
Frame daintiest luster mixed of shades and light?
Or did she else that sober hue devise
In object best to knit and strength our sight,
Lest, if no veil these brave gleams did disguise,
They, sunlike, should more dazzle than delight?
Or would she her miraculous power show,
That, whereas black seems beauty's contrary,
She even in black doth make all beauties flow?
Both so, and thus,—she, minding Love should be
Placed ever there, gave him this mourning weed
To honor all their deaths who for her bleed.
Sonnet 8Love, borne in Greece, of late fled from his native place—
Forc'd by a tedious proofe that Turkish hardned hart
Is not fit marke to pierce his fine-pointed dart—
And, pleas'd with our soft peace, staid here his flying race:
But, finding these north clymes too coldly him embrace,
Not usde to frozen clips, he strave to find some part
Where with most ease and warmth he might employ his art;
At length he perch'd himself in Stella's joyfull face,
Whose faire skin, beamy eyes, like morning sun on snow,
Deceiv'd the quaking boy, who thought, from so pure light,
Effects of lively heat must needs in nature grow:
But she, most faire, most cold, made him thence take his flight
To my close heart; where, while some firebrands he did lay,
He burnt unwares his wings, and cannot fly away.
Sonnet 9Queen Virtue's court, which some call Stella's face,
Prepar'd by Nature's choicest furniture,
Hath his front built of alabaster pure;
Gold is the covering of that stately place.
The door, by which, sometimes, comes forth her grace,
Red porphyr is, which lock of pearl makes sure;
Whose porches rich (which name of cheeks endure)
Marble, mix'd red, and white, do interlace.
The windows now, thro' which this heav'nly guest
Looks o'er the world, and can find nothing such,
Which dare claim from those lights the name of best,
Of touch they are, that, without touch, doth touch,
Which Cupid's self, from Beauty's mind did draw:
Of touch they are, and, poor I! am their straw.
Sonnet 10Reason, in faith thou art well served, that still
Would'st brabbling be with sense and love in me.
I rather wished thee climb the muses' hill,
Or reach the fruit of nature's choicest tree,
Or seek heaven's course, or heaven's inside, to see:
Why should'st thou toil our thorny soil to till?
Leave sense, and those which sense's objects be:
Deal thou with powers of thoughts, leave love to will.
But thou would'st needs fight both with love and sense,
With sword of wit giving wounds of dispraise,
Till downright blows did foil thy cunning fence:
For soon as they strake thee with Stella's rays,
Reason, thou kneeled'st, and offered'st straight to prove
By reason good, good reason her to love.
In truth, oh Love, with what a boyish kind
Thou doest proceed in thy most serious ways:
That when the heav'n to thee his best displays,
Yet of that best thou leav'st the best behind.
For like a child that some fair book doth find,
With gilded leaves or colored vellum plays,
Or at the most on some find picture stays,
But never heeds the fruit of writer's mind:
So when thou saw'st in Nature's cabinet
Stella, thou straight lookst babies in her eyes,
In her cheek's pit thou didst thy pitfall set:
And in her breast bopeep or couching lies,
Playing and shining in each outward part:
But, fool, seekst not to get into her heart.
Sonnets 11 - 20
Sonnet 12Cupid, because thou shin'st in Stella's eyes,
That from her locks, thy day-nets, noe scapes free,
That those lips swell, so full of thee they be,
That her sweet breath makes oft thy flames to rise,
That in her breast thy pap well sugared lies,
That he Grace gracious makes thy wrongs, that she
What words so ere she speak persuades for thee,
That her clear voice lifts thy fame to the skies:
Thou countest Stella thine, like those whose powers
Having got up a breach by fighting well,
Cry, "Victory, this fair day all is ours."
Oh no, her heart is such a citadel,
So fortified with wit, stored with disdain,
That to win it, is all the skill and pain.
Sonnet 13Phoebus was judge between Jove, Mars, and Love,
Of those three gods, whose arms the fairest were:
Jove's golden shield did eagle sables bear,
Whose talons held young Ganymede above:
But in vert field Mars bare a golden spear,
Which through a bleeding heart his point did shove:
Each had his crest; Mars carried Venus' glove,
Jove in his helm the thunderbolt did rear.
Cupid them smiles, for on his crest there lies
Stella's fair hair, her face he makes his shield,
Where roses gules are borne in silver field.
Phoebus drew wide the curtains of the skies
To blaze these last, and sware devoutly then,
The first, thus match'd, were scantly gentlemen.
Sonnet 14Alas, 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 you must contend,
To grieve me worse, in saying that desire
Doth plunge my well-form'd 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 fix'd hearts doth breed
A loathing of all loose unchastity,
Then love is sin, and let me sinful be.
Sonnet 15You 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
Into your rimes, running in rattling rows;
You that poor Petrarch's long-deceased woes,
With new-born sighs and denizen'd 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.
Sonnet 16In nature apt to like when I did see
Beauties, which were of many carats fine,
My boiling sprites did thither soon incline,
And, Love, I thought that I was full of thee:
But finding not those restless flames in me,
Which others said did make their souls to pine,
I thought those babes of some pin's hurt did whine,
By my love judging what love's pain might be.
But while I thus with this young lion played,
Mine eyes (shall I say curst or blest?) beheld
Stella; now she is nam'd, need more be said?
In her sight I a lesson new have spell'd,
I now hav learn'd Love right, and learn'd even so,
As who by being poisoned doth poison know.
Sonnet 17His mother dear Cupid offended late,
Because that Mars grown slacker in her love,
With pricking shot he did not throughly more
To keep the pace of their first loving state.
The boy refus'd for fear of Mars's hate,
Who threaten'd stripes, if he his wrath did prove:
But she in chafe him from her lap did shove,
Brake bow, brake shafts, while Cupid weeping sate:
Till that his grandame Nature pityijng it
Of stella's brows make him two better bows,
And in her eyes of arrows infinite.
Oh how for joy he leaps, oh how he crows,
And straight therewith like wags new got to play,
Falls to shrewd turns, and I was in his way.
Sonnet 18With what sharp checks I in myself am shent,
When into Reason's audit I do go:
And by just counts myself a bankrupt know
Of all the goods, which heav'n to me hath lent:
Unable quite to pay even Nature's rent,
Which unto it by birthright I do owe: