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Though from me you be estrangèd,
"Well, in absence this will die;
"But time will these thoughts remove;
Time doth work what no man knoweth.'
What if ye new beauties see;
"But your reason's purest light
Bids you leave such minds to nourish.'
Dear, do reason no such spite!
"But the wrongs Love bears will make
"Peace, I think that some give ear;
"Well, begone; begone, I say;
Lest that Argus' eyes perceive you !'
Which can make me thus to leave you;
A characteristic but rather enigmatical sonnet follows this lyric. It is another night scene. Sidney, watching from his window, just misses the sight of Stella as her carriage hurries by:
"Cursed be the page from whom the bad torch fell;
Then Astrophel and Stella closes abruptly, with those disconnected sonnets, in one of which the word "despair' occurring justifies Nash's definition of "the epilogue, Despair":
"But soon as thought of thee breeds my delight,
And my young soul flutters to thee his nest,
Most rude Despair, my daily unbidden guest,
Stella's prudent withdrawal of herself from Sidney's company begins to work with salutary effect upon his passion. As that cools or fades for want of nourishment, so the impulse to write declines; and the poet's sincerity is nowhere better shown than in the sudden and ragged ending of his work. I doubt whether the two sonnets on Desire and Love, which Dr. Grosart has transferred from the Miscellaneous Poems and printed here as Nos. 109 and 110, were really meant to form part of Astrophel and Stella. They strike me as retrospective, composed in a mood of stern and somewhat bitter meditation on the past, and prob
ably after some considerable interval; yet the Latin epigraph attached to the second has the force of an envoy. Moreover, they undoubtedly represent the attitude of mind. in which Sidney bade farewell to unhallowed love, and which enabled him loyally to plight his troth to Frances Walsingham. Therefore it will not be inappropriate to close the analysis of his love poetry upon this note. No one, reading them, will fail to be struck with their resemblance to Shakespeare's superb sonnets upon Lust and Death ("The expense of spirit" and "Poor soul, thou centre"), which are perhaps the two most completely powerful sonnets in our literature:
"Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare,
Thou web of will whose end is never wrought!
With price of mangled mind thy worthless ware;
Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare.
In vain thou mad'st me to vain things aspire;
Within myself to seek my only hire,
"Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be,
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!"
"SPLENDIDIS LONGUM VALEDICO NUGIS."
FULKE GREVILLE, touching upon the Arcadia, says that Sidney "purposed no monuments of books to the world." "If his purpose had been to leave his memory in books, I am confident, in the right use of logic, philosophy, history, and poesy, nay even in the most ingenious of mechanical arts he would have showed such tracts of a searching and judicious spirit as the professors of every faculty would have striven no less for him than the seven cities did to have Homer of their sept. But the truth is: his end was not writing, even while he wrote; nor his knowledge moulded for tables or schools; but both his wit and understanding bent upon his heart, to make himself and others, not in words or opinion, but in life and action, good and great."
"His end was not writing, even while he wrote." This is certain; the whole tenor of Sidney's career proves his determination to subordinate self-culture of every kind to the ruling purpose of useful public action. It will also be remembered that none of his compositions were printed during his lifetime or with his sanction. Yet he had received gifts from nature which placed him, as a critic, high above the average of his contemporaries. He was no mean poet when he sang as love dictated. He had acquired and assimilated various stores of knowledge. He possessed an