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Another, humbler wit, to shepherd's pipe retires,
He inveighs against
"You that do search for every purling spring
Into your rhymes, running in rattling rows;
He girds no less against
"You that with allegory's curious frame
Of other's children changelings use to make."
All these are on the wrong tack. Stella is sufficient source of inspiration for him, for them, for every singer. This theoretical position does not, however, prevent him from falling into a very morass of conceits, of which we have an early example in the 9th sonnet. Marino could scarcely have executed variations more elaborate upon the single theme:
"Queen Virtue's Court, which some call Stella's face."
I may here state that I mean to omit those passages in Astrophel and Stella which strike me as merely artificial. I want, if possible, to introduce readers to what is perennially and humanly valuable in the poetical record of Sir Philip Sidney's romance. More than enough will remain of emotion simply expressed, of deep thought pithily presented, to fill a longer chapter than I can dedicate to his book of the heart.
The 2d sonnet describes the growth of Sidney's passion. Love, he says, neither smote him at first sight, nor aimed an upward shaft to pierce his heart on the descent.' Long familiarity made him appreciate Stella. Liking deepened into love. Yet at the first he neglected to make his love known. Now, too late, he finds himself hopelessly enslaved when the love for a married woman can yield only torment.
"Not at first sight, nor with a dribbèd shot,
Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe will bleed;
I saw and liked; I liked, but lovèd not;
I loved, but straight did not what Love decreed:
Now even that footstep of lost liberty
Is gone; and now, like slave-born Muscovite,
And now employ the remnant of my wit
To make myself believe that all is well,
In the 4th and 5th sonnets two themes are suggested, which, later on, receive fuller development. The first is the contention between love and virtue; the second is the Platonic conception of beauty as a visible image of virtue. The latter of these motives is thus tersely set forth in son
"The wisest scholar of the wight most wise
By Phoebus' doom, with sugared sentence says
1 This, at least, is how I suppose we ought to interpret the word dribbed. In Elizabethan English this seems to have been technically equivalent to what in archery is now called elevating as opposed to shooting point blank.
That virtue, if it once met with our eyes,
Strange flames of love it in our souls would raise."
Here, at the commencement of the series, Sidney rather plays with the idea than dwells upon it:
"True, that true beauty virtue is indeed,
Whereof this beauty can be but a shade,
True, that on earth we are but pilgrims made,
In the 10th sonnet he opens a dispute with Reason, which also is continued at intervals throughout the series:
"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;
Leave sense, and those which sense's objects be;
The next explains how Cupid has taken possession of Stella's person; only the fool has neglected to creep into her heart. The 12th expands this theme, and concludes thus:
"Thou countest Stella thine, like those whose powers
Cry Victory! this fair day all is ours!'
O no; her heart is such a citadel,
At this point, then, of Astrophel's love-diary, Stella still held her heart inviolate, like an acropolis which falls not with the falling of the outworks. In the 14th he replies
to a friend who expostulates because he yields to the sinful desire for a married woman:
"If that be sin which doth the manners frame,
Well stayed with truth in word and faith of deed,
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."
The 16th has one fine line. At first Sidney had trifled with love:
"But while I thus with this young lion played,"
I fell, he says, a victim to Stella's eyes. The 18th bewails his misemployed manhood, somewhat in Shakespeare's vein: .
"My youth doth waste, my knowledge brings forth toys;
The 21st takes up the same theme, and combines it with that of the 14th:
"Your words, my friend, right healthful caustics, blame
It is clear that Stella's love was beginning to weigh heavily upon his soul. Friends observed an alteration in him, and warned him against the indulgence of anything so ruinous as this passion for a woman who belonged to another. As yet their admonitions could be entertained and playfully put by. Sidney did not feel himself irrevocably engaged. He still trifled with love as a pleasant episode in life, a new and radiant experience. At this point two well-composed sonnets occur, which show how he be
haved before the world's eyes with the burden of his nascent love upon his heart:
"The curious wits, seeing dull pensiveness
Bearing itself in my long-settled eyes,
Whence those same fumes of melancholy rise,
Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place,
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start
"Because I oft in dark abstracted guise
Seem most alone in greatest company,
Which looks too oft in his unflattering glass;
That makes me oft my best friends overpass,
Now, too, begin the series of plays upon the name Rich, and invectives against Stella's husband. It seems certain that Lord Rich was not worthy of his wife. Sidney had an unbounded contempt for him. He calls him "rich fool" and "lout," and describes Stella's bondage to him as