Abbildungen der Seite

Another, humbler wit, to shepherd's pipe retires,
Yet hiding royal blood full oft in rural vein."

He inveighs against

"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;
Ye 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 wits do sing."

He girds no less against

"You that with allegory's curious frame

Of other's children changelings use to make."

(No. 6.)

(No. 15.)

(No. 28.)

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;
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."

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

net 25:

"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,
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."

(No. 5.)

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;
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."

(No. 10.)

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
Having got up a breach by fighting well,

Cry Victory! this fair day all is ours!'

O no; her heart is such a citadel,
So fortified with wit, stored with disdain,
That to win it is all the skill and pain."

(No. 12.)

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,
Ready of wit and fearing naught 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."

(No. 14.)

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;
My wit doth strive these passions to defend,
Which, for reward, spoil it with vain annoys."

(No. 18.)

The 21st takes up the same theme, and combines it with that of the 14th:

"Your words, my friend, right healthful caustics, blame
My young mind marred."

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,
With idle pains and missing aim do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did address,
Deem that my Muse some fruit of knowledge plies;
Others, because the prince of service tries,
Think that I think state errors to redress.
But harder judges judge ambition's rage,

Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place,
Holds my young brain captived in golden cage.
O fools, or over-wise! alas, the race

Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start
But only Stella's eyes and Stella's heart.'


"Because I oft in dark abstracted guise

Seem most alone in greatest company,
With dearth of words or answers quite awry
To them that would make speech of speech arise;
They deem, and of their doom the rumour flies,
That poison foul of bubbling pride doth lie
So in my swelling breast, that only I
Fawn on myself and others do despise.
Yet pride, I think, doth not my soul possess,

Which looks too oft in his unflattering glass;
But one worse fault, ambition, I confess,

That makes me oft my best friends overpass,
Unseen, unheard, while thought to highest place
Bends all his powers-even unto Stella's grace."

(No. 23.)

(No. 27.)

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

« ZurückWeiter »