Philip Sidney

Astrophil and Stella

Sonnets 55 to 81

The text of each poem with a line by line paraphrase, and occasional explanatory notes

Copyright © 2003 A. S. Kline, All Rights Reserved
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Contents

 

55

Muses, I oft invoked your holy aid,

With choicest flow’rs my speech t’engarland so

That it, despis’d in true by naked show,

Might win some grace in your sweet skill array’d.

And oft whole troops of saddest words I stay’d,

Striving abroad a-foraging to go;

Until by your inspiring I might know

How their black banner might be best display’d.

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.

Muses, I have often invoked your holy aid,

In order to garland my speech with choicest flowers,

So that, dressed with your sweet skill, it might win some grace,

Since true but naked speech is despised:

And often I held back whole troops of saddest words,

Striving to go foraging further off

Until I might know through your inspiration

How their black banner (sad meaning) might be best displayed.

But now I intend to seek no more help from you,

And not to attempt any other sugaring of my speech,

But to speak about her name incessantly:

Since if I only name her whom I love,

Such sweet sounds straight away strike my ear and heart,

So that I can truly find no eloquence like it.


56

Fie, school of Patience, fie! Your lesson is

Far, far too long to learn it without book:

What, a whole week without one piece of look,

And think I should not your large precepts miss?

When I might read those letters fair of bliss,

Which in her face teach virtue, I could brook

Somewhat thy leaden counsels, which I took

As of a friend that meant not much amiss:

But now that I, alas, do want her sight,

What, dost thou think that I can ever take

In thy cold stuff a phlegmatic delight?

No, Patience, if thou wilt my good, then make

Her come, and hear with patience my desire,

And then with patience bid me bear my fire.

Fie, school of Patience, fie: your lesson is

Far, far too long to remember without the book:

What, don’t you think that after a whole week

Without a fraction of a look I would forget your great precepts?

When I could read those fair letters of bliss,

That, in her face, teach virtue, I could tolerate

Your leaden counsels a little, which I accepted

As if they were from a well-meaning friend:

But now, alas, that I lack sight of her,

Do you think I can ever take

A chilled delight in your cold counsel?

No, Patience, if you wish me well, then make

Her come here, and listen to my passion with patience,

And then patiently tell me to endure these flames of mine.


57

Woe, having made with many fights his own

Each sense of mine; each gift, each power of mind

Grown now his slaves, he forc’d them out to find

The thorough’st words, fit for Woe’s self to groan,

Hoping that when they might find Stella alone,

Before she could prepare to be unkind,

Her soul, arm’d but with such a dainty rind,

Should soon be pierc’d with sharpness of the moan.

She heard my plaints, and did not only hear,

But them (so sweet is she) most sweetly sing,

With that fair breast making woe’s darkness clear:

A pretty case! I hoped her to bring

To feel my griefs, and she with face and voice

So sweets my pains, that my pains me rejoice.

Since Sorrow, after many battles, has made

Each of my senses, each gift, and each power of my mind, his own,

So that they have become his slaves, he has forced them to find

The most far-reaching words fit for sorrow itself to groan in,

Hoping that when they chanced to find Stella alone

And before she could prepare to be unkind,

Her soul, armed with such a dainty external covering,

Would soon be pierced by the intensity of their moaning.

She heard my complaints, and not only heard them,

But sang them sweetly (being so sweet herself)

Making sorrow’s darkness apparent using her fair breast.

A pretty case! I hoped to cause her

To feel my grief, and she, with face and voice,

Makes my pains so sweet that they gladden me.


58

Doubt there hath been, when with his golden chain

The Orator so far men’s hearts doth bind,

That no place else their guided steps can find,

But as he them more short or slack doth rein,

Whether with words this sovereignty he gain,

Cloth’d with fine tropes, with strongest reasons lin’d,

Or else pronouncing grace, wherewith his mind

Prints his own lively form in rudest brain:

Now judge by this, in piercing phrases late,

Th’anatomy of all my woes I wrate;

Stella’s sweet breath the same to me did read.

Oh voice, oh face! maugre my speech’s might,

Which wooed woe, most ravishing delight

E’en those sad words, e’en in sad me did breed.

There has been controversy, as to whether,

When an orator binds men’s hearts with his golden chain

So that their controlled thought has its pace set

By the tightness or slackness of his rhetoric,

He achieves this power by words, ornamented

With fine expressions, and containing the truest arguments,

Or by the grace of his delivery, by means of which

His mind prints its living form in the dullest brain.

Now judge by this: I lately wrote

The anatomy of all my sorrows in piercing phrases,

Stella’s sweet breath read the same back to me.

O voice, O face, despite my speech’s power,

That wooed sorrow, even those sad words,

even in sad me, created a most ravishing delight.

Note: The classical controversy was as to whether the content or the means of delivery influenced the audience more. (Cicero, De Oratore: Quintilian XI)


59

Dear, why make you more of a dog than me?

If he do love, I burn, I burn in love;

If he wait well, I never thence would move;

If he be fair, yet but a dog can be.

Little he is, so little worth is he;

He barks, my songs thine own voice oft doth prove:

Bidden perhaps he fetcheth thee a glove,

But I unbid, fetch ev’n my soul to thee.

Yet while I languish, him that bosom clips,

That lap doth lap, nay lets in spite of spite

This sour-breath’d mate taste of those sugar’d lips.

Alas, if you grant only such delight

To witless things, then Love I hope (since wit

Becomes a clog) will soon ease me of it.

Dear, why do you make more fuss of your dog than me?

If he can love, I burn, I burn in love:

If he can wait for you, I’d never move from you:

If he is attractive, still he can only be a dog.

He’s little, so he’s worth little:

He barks, your own voice often tries out my songs:

Perhaps he fetches your glove when commanded,

But I, unasked, fetch even my soul for you.

But while I languish, your bosom presses against him,

Your lap encloses him, and allows despite its slobbering

This sour-breathed companion to taste your sugared lips.

Alas, if you only grant such delight to witless things,

Then I hope that, since wit is an obstacle,

Love will soon rid me of it.


60

When my good angel guides me to the place,

Where all my good I do in Stella see,

That heav’n of joys throws only down on me

Thunder’d disdains and lightnings of disgrace:

But when the rugg’st step of Fortune’s race

Makes me fall from her sight, then sweetly she

With words, wherein the Muses’ treasures be,

Shows love and pity to my absent case.

Now I, wit-beaten long by hardest Fate,

So dull am, that I cannot look into

The ground of this fierce Love and lovely hate:

Then some good body tell me how I do,

Whose presence absence, absence presence is;

Blest in my curse, and cursed in my bliss.

When my good angel guides me to the place

Where I see all my good in Stella,

That heaven of joys only ever throws down

Thunderous disdain, and lightning of disgrace, on me:

But when the roughest footstep in fortune’s race

Makes me fall from her sight, then with words,

In which are the Muses’ treasures, she sweetly

Shows love and pity to my state of absence.

Now I, my wits long addled by hardest fate,

Am so dull that I cannot understand the cause

Of this fierce love and lovely hate:

Then some good person tell me my state,

My presence being absence, and absence my presence:

Blessed in what curses me, and cursed in my bliss.


61

Oft with true sighs, oft with uncalled tears,

Now with slow words, now with dumb eloquence

I Stella’s eyes assail, invade her ears;

But this at last is her sweet breath’d defense:

That who indeed infelt affection bears,

So captives to his saint both soul and sense,

That wholly hers, all selfness he forbears,

Thence his desires he learns, his life’s course thence.

Now since her chaste mind hates this love in me,

With chasten’d mind, I straight must show that she

Shall quickly me from what she hates remove.

Oh Doctor Cupid, thou for me reply,

Driv’n else to grant by angel’s sophistry,

That I love not, without I leave to love.

Often with true sighs, often with unprompted tears,

Sometimes with slow words, sometimes dumb eloquence,

I attack Stella’s eyes and invade her ears:

But this, in the end, is her sweetly breathed defence:

That whoever, indeed, experiences affection inwardly,

Makes both soul and sense so much the captives of his Saint,

That, completely hers, he forgoes all thought of self,

From his Saint he learns his desires and his life’s course.

Now since her chaste mind hates the love that is in me,

I must straightaway, with chastened mind, show

That she can quickly separate me from what she hates.

O Doctor Cupid, reply in my place,

Or I will be driven to admit, by angel’s sophistry,

That I cannot love unless I leave off loving.


62

Late tir’d with woe, ev’n ready for to pine,

With rage of love, I call’d my love unkind;

She in whose eyes Love, though unfelt, doth shine,

Sweet said that I true love in her should find.

I joy’d, but straight thus water’d was my wine,

That love she did, but lov’d a Love not blind,

Which would not let me, whom she lov’d, decline

From nobler course, fit for my birth and mind:

And therefore by her love’s authority,

Will’d me these tempests of vain love to flee,

And anchor fast myself on Virtue’s shore.

Alas, if this the only metal be

Of Love, new-coin’d to help my beggary,

Dear, love me not, that you may love me more.

Lately, tired with sorrow, almost ready to pine

With the fury of love, I called my love unkind:

She, in whose eyes love, though unfelt, shines,

Said sweetly that I would find true love in her.

I was overjoyed, but straight away my wine was watered,

Because she loved, but did not love a love that was blind,

But one which would not let me, whom she loved,

Fall back from the nobler path, fit for one of my birth and mind:

And therefore, by the authority of her love,

Urged me to fly from these tempests of useless love,

And anchor myself fast on the shore of virtue.

Alas, if this is the only metal of love,

New-coined to aid me in my poverty,

Dear, love me not, that you may love me more.

Note: Ficino’s Neoplatonic philosophy has two Venuses and two Cupids, one earthly and blind, the other heavenly and sighted.

 


63

Oh grammar rules, oh now your virtues show

So children still read you with awefull 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 crav’d 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.

O rules of grammar, O now show your virtues:

As children still read you with respectful eyes,

So let my young dove see, by her own virtue,

In your wise precepts, what she has granted me.

For lately, with heart most high, with eyes most low,

I asked for the thing that she always denies:

She, lightning love, displaying Venus’ skies,

Lest once could not be heard, said twice: ‘No, no.’

Sing then my Muse, now Io Paean, sing,

And Heavens, envy not my high triumph,

But confirm grammar’s force with sweet success:

For grammar says (O dear Stella, consider this),

For grammar says (Who says no to grammar?)

That in the same speech, two negatives affirm.

Note: ‘Not a no’ implies ‘a yes’.

 


First Song

Doubt you to whom my Muse these notes intendeth,

Which now my breast o’ercharged to music lendeth?

To you, to you. all song of praise is due;

Only in you my song begins and endeth.

Who hath the eyes which marry state with pleasure,

Who keeps the key of Nature’s chiefest treasure?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only for you the heav’n forgat all measure.

Who hath the lips, where wit in fairness reigneth,

Who womankind at once both decks and staineth?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only by you Cupid his crown maintaineth.

Who hath the feet, whose step all sweetness planteth,

Who else for whom Fame worthy trumpets wanteth?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only to you her scepter Venus granteth.

Who hath the breast, whose milk doth passions nourish,

Whose grace is such, that when it chides doth cherish?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only through you the tree of life doth flourish.

Who hath the hand which without stroke subdueth,

Who long dead beauty with increase reneweth?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only to you all envy hopeless rueth.

Who hath the hair which, loosest, fastest tieth,

Who makes a man live, then glad when he dieth?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only of you the flatterer never lieth.

 

Who hath the voice, which soul from senses sunders,

Whose force but yours the bolts of beauty thunders?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only with you are miracles not wonders.

Doubt you to whom my Muse these notes intendeth,

Which now my breast o’ercharg’d to music lendeth?

To you, to you, all song of praise is due;

Only in you my song begins and endeth.

Do you doubt for whom my Muse intends these notes,

Which my over-full heart now issues as music?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only in you my song begins and ends.

Who has the eyes that join stateliness with pleasure,

Who keeps the key of Nature’s greatest treasure?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only for you the heavens forgot all limits.

Who has the lips where wit reigns in beauty,

Who both adorns womankind and makes it inferior?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only through you does Cupid maintain his crown.

Who has the feet whose steps plant all sweetness,

Who else is there for whom Fame lacks fitting trumpets?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only through you does the tree of life flourish.

Who has the hand that subdues without violence,

Who renews long-dead beauty greater than before?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only at you does all envy weep with hopelessness.

Who has the hair that ties the tightest when it is loosest,

Who makes a man live, and happy when he dies?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only in describing you does the flatterer never lie.

Who has the voice that splits the soul from the senses,

Whose power but yours sends out the lightning bolts of beauty?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only with you are miracles nothing wondrous.

Do you doubt for whom my Muse intends these notes,

Which my over-full heart now issues as music?

To you, to you, all song of praise is owed,

Only in you my song begins and ends.


64

No more, my dear, no more these counsels try,

Oh give my passions leave to run their race:

Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace,

Let folk o’ercharg’d with brain against me cry,

Let clouds bedim my face, break in mine eye,

Let me no steps but of lost labour trace,

Let all the earth with scorn recount my case,

But do not will me from my love to fly.

I do not envy Aristotle’s wit,

Nor do aspire to Caesar’s bleeding fame;

Nor aught do care, though some above me sit;

Nor hope, nor wish another course to frame,

But that which once may win thy cruel heart:

Thou art my wit, and thou my virtue art.

My Dear, no longer repeat your advice,

O allow my passions to run their race:

Let Fortune make me an example of her worst disgrace,

Let people full of intellect criticise me,

Let clouds shadow my face, and rain down into my eyes,

Let me walk no steps but those of lost effort,

Let all the earth tell my story with scorn,

But don’t urge me to fly from my love.

I don’t envy Aristotle’s intellect,

Or aspire to Caesar’s blood-stained fame,

I don’t care at all though some are higher than me,

I don’t hope or wish to take another path,

Except the path that might someday win your cruel heart:

You are my intellect, and you are my virtue.


65

Love by sure proof I may call thee unkind,

That giv’st no better ear to my just cries:

Thou whom to me such my good turns should bind,

As I may well recount, but none can prize:

For when, nak’d boy, thou couldst no harbour find

In this old world, grown now so too too wise,

I lodg’d thee in my heart, and being blind

Bu nature born, I gave to thee mine eyes.

Mine eyes, my light, my heart, my life alas,

If so great services may scorned be,

Yet let this thought thy tig’rish courage pass:

That I perhaps am somewhat kin to thee,

Since in thine arms, if learn’d fame truth hath spread,

Thou bear’st the arrow, I the arrowhead.

Love, you who fail to lend a helpful ear to my just cries,

I call you unkind, having certain proof of it:

You whom my good deeds should tie to me: such deeds as I

May indeed tell of, even though no one can assess their worth:

For when, naked boy, you could find no refuge

In this old world, which has grown now too over-wise for you,

I gave you lodging in my heart, and since you

Are born blind, I gave you my own eyes.

If such great services to you are scorned,

Namely my eyes, my light, my heart, my life, alas,

Yet let your courage, like a tiger’s, approve of this thought,

That I perhaps am somehow related to you:

Since in your coat of arms, if learned fame has spoken truly,

You display an arrow, I display an arrow-head.

Note: The runaway Cupid given refuge by the lovers is from Anacreontea 33.

Sidney refers to his own coat of arms, a golden arrowhead on a blue background

(‘or, a pheon azure’).


66

And do I see some cause a hope to feed,

Or doth the tedious burden of long woe

In weaken’d minds, quick apprehension breed,

Of every image which may comfort show?

I cannot brag of word, much less of deed;

Fortune wheels still with me in one sort slow:

My wealth no more, and no whit less my need,

Desire still on the stilts of Fear doth go.

And yet amid all fears a hope there is

Stol’n to my heart, since last fair night, nay day,

Stella’s eyes sent to me the beams of bliss,

Looking on me, while I look’d other way:

But when mine eyes back to their heav’n did move,

They fled with blush, which guilty seem’d of love.

And do I see some reason that encourages hope,

Or does the tedious burden of long sorrow,

In weakening minds, breed a quick apprehension

Of every image that might offer comfort?

I cannot boast of words, much less of actions:

Fortune still turns for me in the same slow manner:

Desire still walks on stilts, in fear,

No longer my wealth, yet no less my need.

And yet amongst all fears there is a hope

Stolen into my heart, since last beautiful night, no, day,

That Stella’s eyes sent me rays of bliss,

Looking at me, while I was looking the other way:

But when my eyes returned to their heaven (her eyes),

They fled with a blush, which seemed to show guilty love.


67

Hope, art thou true, or dost thou flatter me?

Doth Stella now begin with piteous eye

The ruins of her conquest to espy:

Will she take time, before all wracked be?

Her eye’s speech is translated thus by thee.

But failst thou not in phrase so heav’nly high?

Look on again, the fair text better try:

What blushing notes dost thou in margin see?

What sighs stol’n out, or kill’d before full born?

Hast thou found such and such like arguments?

Or art thou else to comfort me foresworn?

Well, how so thou interpret the contents,

I am resolv’d thy error to maintain,

Rather than by more truth to get more pain.

Hope are you genuine, or do you flatter me?

Does Stella begin to view the ruins

Of her conquest with compassionate eyes?

Will she pause before all is destroyed?

Her eyes’ speech is translated in that way by you:

But surely you fail to comprehend so noble and heavenly a text?

Look again, and try to understand the lovely writing better:

What blushing notes do you see in the margin?

What sighs let slip, or killed before being born?

Have you found similar arguments to these?

Or have you sworn not to comfort me in any other way?

Well, however you interpret the content,

I am resolved to support your error,

Rather than feel greater pain through greater truth.


68

Stella, the only planet of my light,

Light of my life, and life of my desire,

Chief good, whereto my hope doth only aspire,

World of my wealth, and heav’n of my delight:

Why dost thou spend the treasure of thy sprite,

With voice more fit to wed Amphion’s lyre,

Seeking to quench in me the noble fire

Fed by thy worth, and kindled by thy sight?

And all in vain, for while thy breath most sweet,

With choicest words, thy words with reasons rare,

Thy reasons firmly set on Virtue’s feet,

Labour to kill in me this killing care:

Oh, think I then, what paradise of joy

It is, so fair a Virtue to enjoy.

Stella, the only planet that gives me light,

Light of my life, and life of my desire,

Chief good, to which alone my hope aspires,

World of my wealth, and heaven of my delight:

Why do you spend the treasures of your spirit,

With a voice more suited to Amphion’s lyre (that moved stones),

On trying to quench the noble fire in me,

That is fed by your worth and kindled by sight of you?

And all in vain, since while your sweet breath,

With choice words, your words with rare reasons,

Your reasons firmly underpinned by virtue,

Labour to kill this killing care of mine:

O then I think what a paradise of joy

It is to enjoy so lovely a virtue.

Note: Amphion’s lyre had the power to move stones, during the building of Thebes.

 


69

Oh joy, too high for my low style to show:

Oh bliss, fit for a nobler state than me:

Envy, put out thine eyes, lest thou do see

What oceans of delight in me do flow.

My friend, that oft saw through all masks my woe,

Come, come, and let me pour myself on thee;

Gone is the winter of my misery,

My spring appears, oh see what here doth grow.

For Stella hath with words where faith doth shine,

Of her high heart giv’n me the monarchy:

I, I, O I may say that she is mine,

And though she give but thus condition’lly

This realm of bliss, while virtuous course I take,

No kings be crown’d, but they some covenants make.

O joy, too noble for my low style to display it:

O bliss, suited to a nobler state than mine:

Envy, blind yourself, in case you see

What oceans of delight flow in me.

My friend, who often saw my sorrow through all my masks,

Come, come, and let me pour out my feelings to you:

Gone is the winter of my misery,

My spring appears, O see what grows here:

For Stella has, with words in which faith shines,

Given me the monarchy of her noble heart:

I, I, O, I may say that she is mine.

And though she only makes this realm of bliss

Conditional on my taking a virtuous path,

Likewise no kings are crowned, unless they are bound by oaths.

Note: Lines here were echoed by Shakespeare(7-8) and Donne (5-6).

 


70

My Muse may well grudge at my heav’nly joy,

If still I force her in sad rimes to creep:

She oft hath drunk my tears, now hopes t’enjoy

Nectar of mirth, since I Jove’s cup do keep.

Sonnets be not bound prentice to annoy:

Trebles sing high, as well as basses deep:

Grief but Love’s winter livery is, the boy

Hath cheeks to smile, as well as eyes to weep.

Come then, my Muse, show thou height of delight

In well-rais’d notes, my pen the best it may

Shall paint out joy, though but in black and white.

Cease, eager Muse; peace, pen, for my sake stay;

I give you here my hand for truth of this:

Wise silence is best music unto bliss.

My Muse may well begrudge my heavenly joy,

If I still force her to creep in sorrowful rhymes:

She has often drunk tears, but now hopes to enjoy

The nectar of mirth, now I am Jupiter’s cupbearer.

Sonnets are not bound as apprentices to pain:

Trebles sing high, as well as basses deep:

Grief is only Love’s winter clothing: the boy (Cupid)

Has cheeks to smile as well as eyes to weep.

Come then, my Muse, show the height of delight

With well-made notes: my pen will paint joy

As best it can, though only in black and white.

Cease, eager Muse, peace pen, for my sake, stop,

I give you here my hand to show the truth of this,

Wise silence is the best music to accompany bliss.

Note: Sidney held the office of Royal cup-bearer. Ganymede was cup-bearer to Jupiter.


71

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 sovereignty

Of Reason, from whose light those night birds flee;

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 thy virtue bends that love to good:

“But ah,” Desire still cries, “give me some food.”

He who wishes to know how virtue

May be most fittingly present in beauty,

Let him learn from Love to read those fair lines

In you, Stella, who display true goodness.

There he will he find the overthrow of all vices.

Not through crude force but by Reason’s sweetest sovereignty,

From whose light those night-birds (the vices) fly,

Because that inward sun shines so from your eyes.

And not content merely to be perfection’s heir

Yourself, you try to encourage all minds in that direction,

Minds that recognise what is most beautiful in you.

So while your beauty draws the heart to love you,

Your virtue, as quickly, directs that love towards goodness:

‘But ah,’ Desire still cries: ‘give me some nourishment.’


72

Desire, though thou my old companion art,

And oft so clings to my pure love, that I

One from the other scarcely can descry,

While each doth blow the fire of my heart;

Now from thy fellowship I needs must part,

Venus is taught with Dian’s wings to fly:

I must no more in thy sweet passions lie;

Virtue’s gold now must head my Cupid’s dart.

Service and honour, wonder with delight,

Fear to offend, will worthy to appear,

Care shining in mine eyes, faith in my sprite:

These things are left me by my only dear;

But thou, Desire, because thou wouldst have all,

Now banish’d art, but yet alas how shall?

Desire, though you are my companion of old,

And often cling to my pure love, so that I

Can scarcely distinguish one of you from the other,

While each of you intensifies the fire in my heart,

Now I must part from your company:

Venus has been taught how to fly with Diana’s (chaste) wings:

I must no longer inhabit your sweet passions:

Virtue’s gold must now tip my Cupid’s arrow.

Service and honour, admiration with delight,

Fear of offending, a will worthy to be revealed,

Care shining in my eyes, Faith shining in my spirit,

These things are what my only darling has left me:

But you, Desire, because you would possess everything,

Are now banished, and yet how can you be?

Note: Sidney’s coat of arms was a blue arrow-head on a gold background,

but there is an erotic reference here also.

 


Second Song

Have I caught my heav’nly jewel,

Teaching sleep most fair to be?

Now will I teach her that she,

When she wakes, is too, too cruel.

Since sweet sleep her eyes hath charm’d,

The two only darts of Love:

Now will I with that boy prove

Some play, while he is disarm’d.

Her tongue waking still refuseth,

Giving frankly niggard “No”:

Now will I attempt to know

What “No” her tongue sleeping useth.

See, the hand which waking guardeth,

Sleeping, grants a free resort:

Now will I invade the fort;

Cowards Love with loss rewardeth.

But, oh, fool, think of the danger

Of her just and high disdain:

Now will I alas refrain,

Love fears nothing else but anger.

Yet those lips so sweetly swelling

Do invite a stealing kiss:

Now will I but venture this,

Who will read must first learn spelling.

Oh sweet kiss. But ah, she’s waking.

Louring beauty chastens me:

Now will I away hence flee.

Fool! More fool for no more taking.

Have I caught my heavenly jewel

Teaching sleep how to be most lovely?

Now I’ll teach her that when she’s awake

She is too too cruel.

Since sweet sleep has charmed her eyes,

Which are the only two arrows of Love:

Now I will with that boy (Cupid) try

Some play, while he is disarmed.

Her tongue, when awake, still refuses me,

Yielding, frankly, a miserly: ‘No’:

Now I’ll attempt to find out

What ‘No’ her sleeping tongue employs.

See the hand that guards her when awake,

Allows free access when she is asleep:

Now I’ll invade the fort:

Love rewards cowards with loss.

But, O fool, think of the danger

From her just and noble scorn:

Now alas, I will refrain:

Love fears nothing but her anger.

Yet those lips that swell so sweetly

Invite me to steal a kiss:

So I’ll attempt just this:

Who wishes to read must first learn to spell.

O sweet kiss, but, ah, she’s waking,

Frowning beauty chastens me:

Now I’ll hurry away from here:

Fool, the more foolish for not taking more.


73

Love still a boy, and oft a wanton is,

School’d only by his mother’s tender eye:

What wonder then if he his lesson miss,

When for so soft a rod dear play he try?

And yet my Star, because a sugar’d kiss

In sport I suck’d, while she asleep did lie,

Doth lour, nay chide; nay, threat for only this:

Sweet, it was saucy Love, not humble I.

But no ‘scuse serves, she makes her wrath appear

In Beauty’s throne; see now who dares come near

Those scarlet judges, threat’ning bloody pain?

Oh heav’nly fool, thy most kiss-worthy face

Anger invests with such a lovely grace,

That Anger’s self I needs must kiss again.

Love is still a boy and often wanton,

Disciplined only by his mother’s tender eye:

What wonder then if he misses his lessons,

When he can indulge in lovely play for so little punishment?

And yet, my star (Stella), frowns, even chides,

Even threatens me, because in jest I snatched

A sugared kiss, while she lay there sleeping:

Sweet, it was saucy Love that did it, not humble me.

But no excuse will do, she makes her anger appear

In beauty’s throne (her face): see now who dares approach

Those scarlet judges (her lips), threatening bloody pain?

O heavenly fool, anger invests your most

Kiss-worthy face with such a lovely grace

That I am prompted to kiss anger’s self again.

Note: High Court judges were robed in scarlet.

 


74

I never drank of Aganippe well,

Nor ever did in shade of Tempe sit,

And Muses scorn with vulgar brains to dwell;

Poor layman I, for sacred rites unfit.

Some do I hear of poets’ fury tell,

But (God wot) wot not what they mean by it:

And this I swear by blackest brook of hell,

I am no pick-purse of another’s wit.

How fall it then, that with so smooth an ease

My thoughts I speak, and what I speak doth flow

In verse, and that my verse best wits doth please?

Guess we the cause. “What, is it thus?” Fie, no.

“Or so?” Much less. “How then?” Sure, thus it is:

My lips are sweet, inspir’d with Stella’s kiss.

I never drank from the Muses’ well, Aganippe,

Nor ever sat in the shade of Tempe’s valley:

And Muses scorn to live in common minds:

I am a poor layman, unfit for sacred rites.

Some people, I hear, speak of poet’s fury,

But God knows I don’t know what they mean by it:

And I swear by the blackest river of hell,

That I am no pick-pocket of another’s wit.

How does it happen then that I can speak my thoughts

With such smooth ease, and what I speak flows

In verse, and my verse pleases the most intelligent?

We guess the cause: ‘What, is it this?’ ‘No, indeed’:

‘Or this?’ Much less so: ‘What is it then?’ Sure it is this:

My lips are sweet, inspired by Stella’s kiss.

Note: Aganippe was the Muses’ fountain on Mount Helicon. Tempe is the valley in Thessaly where Apollo pursued Daphne (Ovid, Metamorphoses I:567).

The Styx is Hell’s blackest river.


75

Of all the kings that ever here did reign,

Edward nam’d Fourth, as first in praise I name;

Not for his fair outside, nor well-lin’d brain,

Although less gifts imp feathers oft on Fame:

Nor that he could young-wise, wise-valiant frame

His sire’s revenge, join’d with a kingdom’s gain;

And, gain’d by Mars, could yet mad Mars so tame,

That balance weigh’d what sword did late obtain;

Nor that he made the Flow’r-de-luce so ‘fraid,

Though strongly hedg’d of bloody Lion’s paws,

That witty Lewis to him a tribute paid;

Nor this, nor that, nor any such small cause,

But only for this worthy knight durst prove

To lose his crown, rather than fail his love.

I name Edward the Fourth as the most deserving of praise

Among all the kings that ever reigned in England,

Not for his good looks, nor his profound mind,

Although lesser gifts often enhance Fame (imp=graft feathers on a hawk):

Nor because he could, being wise young, and courageously wise,

Plan his father’s (Duke of York, killed fighting the Lancastrians) revenge,

Gain a kingdom by war, and yet reign in peace thereafter,

So that the scales of justice ruled what the sword had won:

Nor that he made the French fleur-de-lys so afraid,

Though defended by the red lion of the Scots (mercenaries?)

That cunning Louis XI bought off his invasion with gold:

Neither this, nor that, nor any little cause of that kind,

But only because this worthy knight dared

To lose his crown, rather than fail his love (Lady Grey, his wife)

Note: Edward IV (1442-82) usurped the throne in 1461. His father had been killed fighting against the House of Lancaster. He invaded France in 1474 and was persuaded to abandon the invasion with a payment by Louis XI of France of 75,000 crowns. In 1464 he had secretly married Lady Elizabeth Grey, the widow of Sir Richard Grey, while the Earl of Warwick, ‘the Kingmaker’, was negotiating a French marriage for him. Warwick drove him into exile in 1470 but he regained the throne in 1471.


76

She comes, and straight therewith her shining twins do move

Their rays to me, who in her tedious absence lay

Benighted in cold woe; but now appears my day,

The only light of joy, the only warmth of love.

She comes with light and warmth, which like Aurora prove

Of gentle force, so that mine eyes dare gladly play

With such a rosy morn, whose beams most freshly gay

Scorch not, but only do dark chilling sprites remove.

But lo, while I do speak, it groweth noon with me,

Her flamy glist’ring lights increase with time and place;

My heart cries, ‘Ah, it burns’; mine eyes now dazzl’d be:

No wind, no shade can cool, what help then in my case,

But with short breath, long looks, staid feet and walking head,

Pray that my sun go down with meeker beams to bed.

She comes and straightaway her shining twins (her eyes) do shine

Their rays towards me, who in the tedium of her absence,

Lay disconsolate in cold sorrow, but now my day appears,

The only light of joy, the only warmth of love.

She comes with light and warmth that, like Aurora (the dawn), prove

Of gentle force, so that my eyes dare to play joyously

With such a rosy morning, whose beams fresh and delightful

Do not scorch, but only revive the frozen spirits.

But lo, while I speak, it turns to noon around me,

Her flaming glittering lights (eyes) brighten with time and place:

My heart cries: ‘Ah, it burns,’ my eyes are dazzled now:

No wind or shade can cool them: what can help me then,

Except to pray, with sighs, gazing, rooted to the spot, but with busy mind,

That my sun will set with rays that are less fierce.


77

Those looks, whose beams be joy, whose motion is delight,

That face, whose lecture shows what perfect beauty is:

That presence, which doth give dark hearts a living light:

That grace, which Venus weeps that she herself doth miss:

That hand, which without touch holds more than Atlas might:

Those lips, which make death’s pay a mean price for a kiss:

That skin, whose past-praise hue scorns this poor term of white:

Those words, which do sublime the quintessence of bliss:

That voice, which makes the soul plant himself in the ears:

That conversation sweet, where such high comforts be,

As constru’d in true speech, the name of heav’n it bears,

Makes me in my best thoughts and quiet’st judgment see,

That in no more but these I might be fully blest:

Yet ah, my maiden Muse doth blush to tell the rest.

Those looks, whose rays are joy, whose motion is delight,

That face which shows what perfect beauty is, when read:

That presence which shines a living light into dark hearts:

That grace, which Venus weeps the lack of, herself:

That hand, which without touching holds more than Atlas’ strength:

Those lips which make the payment of death a low price for a kiss,

That skin, whose colour, beyond praise, scorns the meagre word ‘white’:

Those words, which distil the quintessence of bliss:

That voice, which makes the soul intent on hearing:

That sweet conversation, in which such noble comfort exists

That, understood in true speech, it bears the name of ‘heaven’,

Make me see in my truest thoughts and calmest judgement,

That I could be fully blessed by these things alone:

Yet ah, my virgin Muse blushes to speak of the rest.

Note: Atlas held the world on his shoulders.

 


78

Oh how the pleasant airs of true love be

Infect’d by those vapours, which arise

From out that noisome gulf, which gaping lies

Between the jaws of hellish Jealousy:

A monster, others’ harm, self-misery,

Beauty’s plague, Virtue’s scourge, succour of lies;

Who his own joy to his own hurt applies,

And only cherish doth with injury;

Who since he hath, by Nature’s special grace,

So piercing paws as spoil when they embrace,

So nimble feet as stir still, though on thorns,

So many eyes ay seeking their own woe,

So ample ears as never good news know:

Is it not evil that such a Devil want horns?

O how the pleasant airs of true love are

Infected by those vapours which rise

From the foul gulf, that gapes

Between the jaws of hellish Jealousy:

A monster, harmful to others, a misery to the self,

A plague to beauty, a scourge to virtue, the nourisher of lies:

That finds its own delight in its own hurt,

And only cherishes by doing harm:

Since it has, by Nature’s special grace,

Such piercing claws, that ruin what they grasp,

Such nimble feet that can still move, though on thorns,

So many eyes always searching for their own sorrow,

Such ample ears that never hear good news:

Isn’t it evil that such a Devil lacks horns (= is not yet cuckolded)?


79

Sweet kiss, thy sweets I fain would sweetly indite,

Which even of sweetness sweetest sweet’ner art:

Pleasing’st consort, where each sense holds a part;

Which, coupling doves, guides Venus’ chariot right;

Best charge, and bravest retreat in Cupid’s fight,

A double key, which opens to the heart,

Most rich, when most his riches it impart;

Nest of young joys, schoolmaster of delight,

Teaching the mean at once to take and give;

The friendly fray, where blows both wound and heal,

The pretty death, while each in other live;

Poor hope’s first wealth, hostage of promis’d weal,

Breakfast of love: but lo! Lo, where she is.

Cease we to praise; now pray we for a kiss.

Sweet kiss, I would like to write sweetly of your sweets,

That are the sweetest sweeteners of sweetness:

You, the most pleasing partner, in which each sense has a part,

That yokes doves together, and steers Venus’s chariot truly:

The fiercest assault and the bravest retreat in Cupid’s battles:

A double key, that opens the heart,

Richest when it most freely gives away its riches:

Nest of young joys, schoolmaster of delight,

Teaching the middle way, to both take and give:

The friendly fight where blows both wound and heal:

The pretty death, where each lives in the other:

Poor hope’s first wealth, hostage of promised well-being,

Breakfast of love: but look, look she is here:

Let us leave off praising, and pray for a kiss.


80

Sweet swelling lip, well may’st thou swell in pride,

Since best wits think it wit thee to admire;

Nature’s praise, Virtue’s stall, Cupid’s cold fire,

Whence words, not words but heav’nly graces, slide;

The new Parnassus, where the Muses bide,

Sweet’ner of music, wisdom’s beautifier:

Breather of life, and fast’ner of desire,

Where Beauty’s blush in Honour’s grain is dyed.

Thus much my heart compell’d my mouth to say,

But now, spite of my heart, my mouth will stay,

Loathing all lies, doubting this flattery is:

And no spur can his resty race renew,

Without how far this praise is short of you,

Sweet lip, you teach my mouth with one sweet kiss.

Sweet swelling lip, you may well swell in pride,

Since the best minds think it clever to admire you:

Nature’s praise, virtue’s seat, Cupid’s cold fire,

From which words that are not words but heavenly graces fall:

The new Parnassus where the Muses reside:

Sweetener of music, beautifier of wisdom:

Breather of life, and binder of desire,

Where beauty’s blush is dyed with the scarlet hue of honour.

This much my heart compelled my mouth to say,

But now, despite my heart, my mouth will pause,

Loathing all lies, questioning whether this is mere flattery:

And no spur can renew its restless race,

Unless, sweet lip, with one sweet kiss, you teach

My mouth how far this praise falls short in describing you.


81

Oh kiss, which dost those ruddy gems impart,

Or gems, or fruits of new-found Paradise,

Breathing all bliss and sweet’ning to the heart,

Teaching dumb lips a nobler exercise;

Oh kiss, which souls, e’en souls, together ties

By links of Love, and only Nature’s art:

How fain would I paint thee to all men’s eyes,

Or of thy gifts at least shade out some part;

But she forbids, with blushing words, she says

She builds her fame on higher-seated praise;

But my heart burns, I cannot silent be.

Then since (dear life) you fain would have me peace,

And I, mad with delight, want wit to cease,

Stop you my mouth with still, still kissing me.

O kiss that shares those reddened jewels,

Either gems or fruits of a new-found paradise,

Breathing all bliss and sweetening the heart,

Teaching dumb lips a nobler exercise:

O kiss, that even ties souls together

With links of love, and Nature’s art alone:

How I wish to depict you for all men to see,

Or at least delineate some part of you.

But she forbids it: with blushing words she says

She builds her fame on a nobler praise.

But my heart burns. I cannot be silent:

Then since (dear life) you wish me to be silent,

And I, mad with delight, want words to cease,

Stop my mouth yourself by kissing me, on and on.


Index by Poem Number