Philip Sidney

Astrophil and Stella

Sonnets 82 to 108

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

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright © 2003, All Rights Reserved.
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Nymph of the garden where all beauties be,

Beauties which do in excellency pass

His who till death look’d in a wat’ry glass,

Or hers, whom naked the Trojan boy did see;

Sweet garden nymph, which keeps the cherry tree

Whose fruit doth far th’Hesperian taste surpass;

Most sweet-fair, most fair-sweet, do not alas,

From coming near those cherries banish me:

For though full of desire, empty of wit,

Admitted late by your best-graced Grace,

I caught at one of them a hungry bit,

Pardon that fault. Once more grant me the place

And I do swear e’en by the same delight,

I will but kiss, I never more will bite.

Nymph of the garden where all beauties are:

Beauties that in their excellence surpass

His who gazed in the watery mirror till he died,

Or hers whom the Trojan boy saw naked:

Sweet garden nymph, who guards the cherry tree (her lips)

Whose fruit far exceeds the Hesperian fruit in taste:

Most sweet-fair, most fair-sweet, do not, alas,

Prevent me from coming close to those cherries:

For though, filled with desire and empty of reason,

When lately admitted by your best-graced grace (to the ‘garden’)

I caught at one of them (her lips) in hunger, a little,

Pardon my fault, and allow me near that place once more,

And I swear, even by the same delight,

I will only kiss, I will never, in future, bite.

Note: The Garden of the Hesperides, where the Hesperides, the daughters of Night and Darkness guarded the golden apples. Narcissus drowned while gazing at his own reflection in the water (Ovid, Metamorphoses III:402-510). Venus revealed herself naked to Paris in the contest between the goddesses, whose prize was a golden apple.


Good, brother Philip, I have borne you long.

I was content you should in favour creep,

While craftily you seem’d your cut to keep,

As though that fair soft hand did you great wrong.

I bare (with envy) yet I bare your song,

When in her neck you did love ditties peep;

Nay, more fool I, oft suffer’d you to sleep

In lilies’ nest, where Love’s self lies along.

What, doth high place ambitious thoughts augment?

Is sauciness reward of courtesy?

Cannot such grace your silly self content,

But you must needs with those lips billing be?

And through those lips drink nectar from that tongue?

Leave that, Sir Phip, lest off your neck be wrung.

Good brother Philip (her pet sparrow) I’ve tolerated you for a long time:

I was content that you should creep into her favour,

While you seemed craftily to behave with propriety,

As though that fair soft hand annoyed you greatly.

I endured it (with envy), I endured your song

When you piped love songs against her neck:

Why, the more fool I, I often allowed you to sleep

In the nest of lilies (her breasts) where Love himself lies.

What, does a high place increase ambitious thoughts?

Is sauciness the reward for courtesy?

Cannot such graciousness content your foolish self,

Without you needing to be billing with those lips,

And drinking nectar from that tongue through them?

Leave off, sir Phip, lest your head be wrung off!

Third Song

If Orpheus’ voice had force to breathe such music’s love

Through pores of senseless trees, as it could make them move;

If stones good measure danc’d, the Theban walls to build,

To cadence of the tunes, which Amphion’s lyre did yield,

More cause a like effect at leastwise bringeth:

Oh stones, oh trees, learn hearing; Stella singeth.

If Love might sweeten so a boy of shepherd brood,

To make a lizard dull to taste Love’s dainty food;

If eagle fierce could so in Grecian maid delight,

As his light was her eyes, her death his endless night:

Earth gave that love, heav’n I trow love refineth:

Oh beasts, oh birds; look Love. Lo, Stella, shineth.

The birds, beasts, stones and trees feel this, and feeling love;

And if the trees nor stones stir not the same to prove,

Nor beasts nor birds do come into this blessed gaze,

Know that small Love is quick, and great Love doth amaze:

They are amaz’d, but you with reason arm’d,

Oh eyes, oh ears of men, how are you charm’d!

If Orpheus’s voice had the power to breathe such music’s love

Into the pores of senseless trees so as to make them move:

If stones danced in harmony, to create the walls of Thebes,

To the cadence of the tunes from Amphion’s lyre:

Then a like effect at least should arise from a greater cause:

O stones, O trees, acquire hearing, since Stella sings.

If love might so sweeten a boy of shepherd race,

As to make a dragon reluctant to taste love’s dainty food:

If a fierce eagle could so delight in a Greek girl

As to make her eyes his light, her death his endless night:

Earth gave that love: Heaven I believe refines love:

O birds, O beasts, look and see how Stella radiates love.

The birds, beasts, stones and trees feel this, and feeling it, they love:

And if the trees, and the stones don’t move to prove it,

And the beasts and birds don’t come to her blessed gaze,

Know that a lesser love is lively, while a great one dazes us:

They are all dazed, but O eyes, O ears of men,

Armed with reason, how much more are you charmed!

Note: Orpheus drew the trees and stone to his singing. Amphion built the walls of Thebes with the help of his magical lyre that could move stones.

From Pliny’s Natural History VIII:61 and X:18, Sidney takes the stories of Thoas the Arcadian rescued from robbers by a dragon to which he had been kind, and a girl of Sestos who nurtured an eagle that sacrificed itself in her funeral pyre.


Highway, since you my chief Parnassus be,

And that my Muse, to some ears not unsweet,

Tempers her words to trampling horses’ feet,

More oft than to a chamber melody;

Now blessed you, bear onward blessed me

To her, where I my heart safeliest shall meet;

My Muse and I must you of duty greet

With thanks and wishes, wishing thankfully.

Be you still fair, honour’d by public heed,

By no encroachment wrong’d, nor time forgot;

Nor blam’d for blood, nor sham’d for sinful deed.

And, that you know I envy you no lot,

Of highest wish, I wish you so much bliss,

Hundreds of years you Stella’s feet may kiss.

Highway, since you are my main Parnassus,

And since my Muse, who is not un-sweet to some ears,

Tunes her words to the trampling of horses’ hooves

More often than to a melody played in a room:

Now blessed, carry blessed me onwards

To her presence where I’m certain to meet my own heart.

My Muse and I must greet you dutifully

With thanks and wishes, wished thankfully.

May you remain sound, honoured by public care,

Not wronged by any encroachment, or shamed by sinful actions.

And so that you know I grudge you no share

Of noblest wishes, I wish you this much bliss,

That you may kiss Stella’s feet for hundreds of years.


I see the house; my heart thyself contain,

Beware full sails drown not thy tott’ring barge,

Lest joy, by nature apt sprites to enlarge,

Thee to thy wrack beyond thy limits strain.

Nor do like lords, whose weak confused brain

Not pointing to fit folks each undercharge,

While every office themselves will discharge,

With doing all, leave nothing done but pain.

But give apt servants their due place: let eyes

See beauty’s total sum summ’d in her face;

Let ears hear speech, which wit to wonder ties;

Let breath suck up those sweets; let arms embrace

The globe of weal, lips Love’s indentures make:

Thou but of all the kingly tribute take.

I see her house: my heart, restrain yourself:

Beware full sails don’t sink your unstable barge

Lest joy, which, of its nature, is apt to swell the spirits,

Strains you beyond your limits, to your shipwreck:

And don’t be like those lords, whose weak confused minds,

Failing to appoint suitable people to the required tasks,

And undertaking every post themselves,

Leave nothing done but harm, by claiming to do all.

But give suitable servants their proper position: let eyes

See the sum of beauty, summed up in her face,

Let ears hear her speech, that joins intelligence with wonder,

Let breath suck up her sweetness, let arms embrace

That world of well-being, and lips make Love’s contracts:

You, heart, merely accept a royal tribute from them all.

Fourth Song

Only joy, now here you are,

Fit to hear and ease my care:

Let my whispering voice obtain

Sweet reward for sharpest pain.

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

Night hath clos’d all in her cloak,

Twinkling stars love-thoughts provoke:

Danger hence good care doth keep;

Jealousy itself doth sleep:

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

Better place no wit can find

Cupid’s yoke to loose or bind:

These sweet flowers on fine bed, too,

Us in their best language woo:

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

This small light the moon bestows

Serves thy beams but to disclose,

So to raise my hap more high;

Fear not else, none can us spy:

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

That you heard was but a mouse,

Dumb sleep holdeth all the house

Yet asleep; methinks they say:

“Young folks, take time while you may.”

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

Niggard Time threats, if we miss

This large offer of our bliss,

Long stay ere he grant the same:

Sweet, then, while each thing doth frame,

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

You fair mother is abed,

Candles out and curtains spread;

She thinks you do letters write,

Write, but let me first indite:

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

Sweet alas, why strive you thus?

Concord better fitteth us;

Leave to Mars the force of hands,

Your power in your beauty stands:

Take me to thee, and thee to me.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

Woe to me! And do you swear

Me to hate? But I forbear.

Cursed be my dest’nies all,

That brought me so high, to fall;

Soon with my death I will please thee.

“No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.”

My only joy, now you are here,

Fit to hear and ease my care:

Let my whispering voice obtain

A sweet reward for sharpest pain:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Night has enclosed everything in her cloak,

Twinkling stars provoke thoughts of love:

Danger is careful to keep far away,

Jealousy itself is asleep:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Thought can’t find a better place

To loose or fasten Cupid’s yoke:

These sweet flowers on a fine bed, too,

Woo us in their best language:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

The small light the Moon grants us,

Only serves to reveal your rays.

So as to raise my fortunes higher:

Fear nothing else, no one can see us:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

What you heard was merely a mouse:

Dumb sleep has gripped the whole house:

Yet, asleep, I seem to hear them say,

Young people, take time while you can:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Grudging time threatens, that if we fail

To take up this fine offer of our bliss,

It will be a long time before he repeats it:

Then, sweet, while everything allows,

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Your lovely mother is in bed,

Candles quenched, and curtains drawn:

She thinks you’re writing letters:

Write, but let me write first:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Sweet, alas, why do you struggle so?

Harmony is better suited to us.

Leave strength of hands to Mars,

Your power is in your beauty:

Take me to you, and you to me.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’

Woe to me, do you swear

To hate me? I will restrain myself:

Cursed be my fate

That lifted me so high in order to fail:

Soon I’ll please you with my death.

‘No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.’


Alas, whence came this change of looks? If I

Have chang’d desert, let mine own conscience be

A still-felt plague, to self-condemning me:

Let woe gripe on my heart, shame load mine eye.

But if all faith, like spotless ermine lie

Safe in my soul, which only doth to thee

(As his sole object of felicity)

With wings of love in air of wonder fly,

Oh ease your hand, treat not so hard your slave:

In justice pains come not till faults do call.

Or if I needs, sweet Judge, must torments have,

Use something else to chasten me withal

Than those blest eyes, where all my hopes do dwell.

No doom should make one’s heav’n become his hell.

Alas, where does this change in your looks come from?

If I deserve differently than before let my own conscience be

A plague: to be felt forever by me, who condemn myself.

Let sorrow grip my heart, shame load my eye.

But if all faith, like spotless ermine, lies

Safe in my soul, which only flies to you

(As its soul object of happiness)

With wings of love, in marvellous air,

O lighten your hand, don’t treat your slave so harshly:

In justice punishments don’t come till faults are proven:

Or if (sweet judge) I have to experience torture,

Use something else to punish me with

Than your blest eyes, where all my hopes reside:

No fate should make a man’s hell of his heaven.

Fifth Song

While favour fed my hope, delight with hope was brought,

Thought waited on delight, and speech did follow thought;

Then drew my tongue and pen records unto thy glory:

I thought all words were lost, that were not spent of thee;

I thought each place was dark but where thy lights would be,

And all ears worse than deaf, that heard not out thy story.

I said thou wert most fair, and so indeed thou art;

I said thou wert most sweet, sweet poison to my heart;

I said my soul was thine (oh that I then had lied!)

I said thine eyes were stars, thy breasts the milk’n way;

Thy fingers Cupid’s shafts, thy voice the angels’ lay:

And all I said so well, as no man it denied.

But now that hope is lost, unkindness kills delight;

Yet thought and speech do live, though metamorphos’d quite:

For Rage now rules the reins, which guided were by Pleasure.

I think now of thy faults, who late thought of thy praise;

That speech falls now to blame, which did thy honour raise;

The same key open can, which can lock up a treasure.

Thou then whom partial heavens conspir’d in one to frame,

The proof of Beauty’s worth, th’inheritrix of fame,

The mansion seat of bliss, and just excuse of lovers;

See now those feathers pluck’d, wherewith thou flew’st most high:

See what clouds of reproach shall dark thy honour’s sky.

Whose own fault casts him down, hardly high seat recovers.

And oh, my Muse, though oft you lull’d her in your lap,

And then a heav’nly child gave her ambrosian pap,

And to that brain of hers your hidd’nest gifts infus’d,

Since she, disdaining me, doth you in me disdain,

Suffer not her to laugh, while both we suffer pain:

Princes in subjects wrong’d, must deem themselves abus’d.

Your client poor myself, shall Stella handle so?

Revenge, revenge, my Muse! Defiance’ trumpet blow:

Threat’n what may be done, yet do more than you threat’n.

An, my suit granted is; I feel my breast doth swell.

Now child, a lesson new you shall begin to spell:

Sweet babes must babies have, but shrewd girls must be beaten.

Think now no more to hear of warm fine-odor’d snow,

Nor blushing lilies, nor pearls’ ruby-hidden row,

Nor of that golden sea, whose waves in curls are broken:

But of thy soul, so fraught with such ungratefulness,

As where thou soon might’st help, most faith dost most oppress,

Ungrateful who is call’d, the worst of evils is spoken.

Yet worse than worst, I say thou art a thief. A thief?

Now God forbid. A thief, and of worst thieves the chief:

Thieves steal for need, and steal but goods, which pain recovers,

But thou rich in all joys, dost rob my joys from me,

Which cannot be restor’d by time nor industry:

Of foes the spoil is evil, far worse of constant lovers.

Yet gentle English thieves do rob, but will not slay;

Thou English murd’ring thief, wilt have hearts for thy prey:

The name of murd’rer now on thy fair forehead sitteth:

And ev’n while I do speak, my death wounds bleeding be,

Which (I protest) proceed from only cruel thee:

Who may and will not save, murder in truth committeth.

But murder, private fault, seems but a toy to thee.

I lay then to thy charge unjustest tyranny,

If rule by force without all claim a tyrant showeth;

For thou dost lord my heart, who am not born thy slave,

And, which is worse, makes me, most guiltless, torments have;

A rightful prince by unright deeds a tyrant groweth.

Lo, you grow proud with this, for tyrants make folk bow:

Of foul rebellion then I do appeach thee now;

Rebel by Nature’s law, rebel by law of reason,

Thou, sweetest subject, wert born in the realm of Love,

And yet against thy prince thy force dost daily prove:

No virtue merits praise, once touch’d with blot of treason.

But valiant rebels oft in fools’ mouths purchase fame:

I now then stain thy white with vagabonding shame,

Both rebel to the son, and vagrant from the mother;

For wearing Venus’ badge in every part of thee,

Unto Diana’s train thou runaway didst flee:

Who faileth one, is false, though trusty to another.

What, is not this enough? Nay, far worse cometh here;

A witch I say thou art, though thou so fair appear;

For I protest, my sight ne’er thy face enjoyeth,

Bit I in me am chang’d, I am alive and dead:

My feet are turn’d to roots; my heart becometh lead;

No witchcraft is so evil, as which man’s mind destroyeth.

Yet witches may repent, thou art far worse than they.

Alas, that I am forc’d such evil of thee to say,

I say thou art a devil, though cloth’d in angel’s shining:

For thy face tempts my soul to leave the heav’n for thee,

And thy words of refuse, do pour ev’n hell on me:

Who tempt, and tempted plague, are devils in true defining.

You then, ungrateful thief, you murd’ring tyrant you,

You rebel runaway, to lord and lady untrue,

You witch, you devil (alas) you still of me belov’d,

You see what I can say; mend yet your froward mind,

And such skill in my Muse you reconcil’d shall find,

That all these cruel words your praises shall be prov’d.

While your favour fed my hope, delight appeared along with hope,

Thought was servant to delight, and speech followed thought:

Then my tongue and pen became records of your glory:

I thought all words were idle that were not about you:

I thought every place dark except where your lights (eyes) might be,

And all ears worse than deaf that did not listen to your story to the end.

I said you were very lovely, and so indeed you are:

I said you were very sweet, sweet poison to my heart:

I said my soul was yours (O if only I had lied then):

I said your eyes were stars, your breast the Milky Way,

Your fingers Cupid’s arrows, your voice the angels’ song:

And I said it all well, and no one denied it.

But now hope is gone, your unkindness kills delight,

Though thought and speech still live, yet quite transformed:

For rage now holds the reins which pleasure used to guide.

I think of your faults, now, who used to think of your praise:

My speech blames you, which celebrated your honour:

The same key that can secure a treasure can unlock it.

You then, whom the favouring heavens conspired to create

As the sole proof of beauty’s value, the inheritor of fame:

The mansion house of bliss, and true justification for lovers:

See those feathers plucked now with which you flew so high:

See what clouds of reproach will darken your honour’s sky:

She who’ brought down by her own fault will scarcely regain high place.

And O my Muse, thought you often lulled her in your lap,

And then, being a child of heaven, gave her the food of the gods,

And infused your deepest gifts into that brain of hers:

Since she, by disdaining me, disdains you in me,

Don’t let her laugh while we both suffer pain:

Princes whose subjects are wronged must consider themselves abused.

Shall Stella handle your servant, my poor self, in this way?

Revenge, revenge, my Muse, blow the trumpet of defiance:

Sixth Song

Oh you that hear this voice,

Oh you that see this face,

Say whether of the choice

Deserves the former place:

Fear not to judge this ’bate,

For it is void of hate.

This side doth Beauty take,

For that doth Music speak,

Fit orators to make

The strongest judgments weak:

The bar to plead their right

Is only true delight.

Thus doth the voice and face

These gentle lawyers wage

Like loving brothers’ case

For father’s heritage:

That each, while each contends,

Itself to other lends.

For Beauty beautifies

With heav’nly hue and grace

The heav’nly harmonies;

And in this faultless face

The perfect beauties be

A perfect harmony.

Music more loft’ly swells

In speeches nobly plac’d:

Beauty as far excels

In action aptly grac’d:

A friend each party draws

To countenance his cause.

Love more affected seems

To Beauty’s lovely light,

And Wonder more esteems

Of Music’s wondrous might:

But both to both so bent,

As both in both are spent.

Music doth witness call

The ear, his truth to try:

Beauty brings to the hall

The judgment of the eye:

Both in their objects such

As no exceptions touch.

The common sense, which might

Be arbiter of this,

To be forsooth upright,

To both sides partial is:

He lays on this chief praise,

Chief praise on that he lays.

The Reason, princess high,

Whose throne is in the mind,

Which Music can in sky

And hidden beauties find:

Say whether thou wilt crown

With limitless renown.

O you that hear this voice,

O you that see this face,

Say which of the two

Deserves the first place:

Don’t fear to judge this debate,

Since it is devoid of hate.

Beauty takes one side,

Music speaks for the other:

Orators capable of making

The strongest judgements weak:

The ‘bar’ (legal and musical) where they plead their case

Is only true delight.

So do the voice and face

Two gentle lawyers, dispute

As in a loving brother’s case

Settling a father’s will,

So that each, while each contends,

Lends its help to the other.

Because Beauty beautifies,

With its heavenly colour and grace

The heavenly harmonies (of voice):

And in this faultless face

Its perfect beauties are

A perfect harmony.

Music swells more loftily

In speeches delivered nobly:

Beauty excels by just as much

In actions which are suitably graceful.

Each of the parties leads a friend

To agree with his cause.

Love seems more drawn

To Beauty’s lovely light,

While Wonder thinks more

Of Music’s wondrous power:

But both are attracted to both,

So that both are consumed in both.

Music calls the ear as witness

To examine his truth:

Beauty brings to the hall

The eye’s judgement:

Both in their purposes such

As admit of no legal objections.

Common Sense which might

Be the judge of all this,

To be truly even-handed,

Is partial to both sides:

He gives the highest praise to this one,

And the highest praise to that one.

Let you, Reason, then, the high princess

Whose throne is in the mind,

Who can find music

And hidden beauties in the sky,

Say which you will crown

With limitless renown.

Note: A reference in the last verse to the Pythagorean ‘Music of the Spheres’

Seventh Song

Whose senses in so evil consort, their step-dame Nature lays,

That ravishing delight in them most sweet tunes do not raise;

Or, if they do delight therein, yet are so cloy’d with wit,

As with sententious lips to set a title vain on it:

Oh let them hear these sacred tunes, and learn in wonder’s schools

To be in things past bounds of wit, fools, if they be not fools.

Who have so leaden eyes, as not to see sweet Beauty’s show,

Or seeing, have so wooden wits, as not that worth to know;

Or knowing, have so muddy minds, as not to be in love;

Or loving, have so frothy thoughts, as eas’ly thence to move:

Oh let them see these heav’nly beams, and in fair letters read

A lesson fit, both sight and skill, love and firm love to breed.

Hear then, but then with wonder hear; see, but adoring see:

No mortal gifts, no earthly fruits, now here descended be:

See, do you see this face? A face? Nay image of the skies,

Of which the two life-giving lights are figur’d in her eyes:

Hear you this soul-invading voice, and count it but a voice?

The very essence of their tunes, when angels do rejoice.

Those in whose senses their step-mother Nature creates such disharmony,

That the sweetest tunes don’t stir ravishing delight in them:

Or if they do delight in them, yet are so wearied with thought

As to call such delight idle, with moralising lips:

O let them hear these sacred tunes, and learn in wonder’s school,

If they’re not unwise, to be unwise in what exceeds our understanding.

Those who have such leaden eyes that they cannot see beauty:

Or seeing it have such dull wits as not to know its worth:

Or being in love, have such capricious thoughts that they fall out of it:

O let them see these heavenly eyes, and read in those lovely letters,

A lesson fit to breed a love that’s a firm love, from that sight and reading.

Hear, but hear with wonder: see but with adoration.

These are not mortal gifts or earthly fruits that have descended.

Do you see this face. A face? No it is an image of the skies,

Where the two life-giving lights (sun and moon) are imaged in her eyes:

Do you hear this soul-invading voice and call it just a voice?

It’s the very essence of the angels melodies when they rejoice.

Eighth Song

In a grove most rich of shade,

Where birds wanton music made,

May, then young, his pied weeds showing,

New perfum’d with flowers fresh growing,

Astrophil with Stella sweet

Did for mutual comfort meet,

Both within themselves oppress’d,

But each in the other bless’d.

Him great harms had taught much care,

Her fair neck a foul yoke bare;

But her sight his cares did banish,

In his sight her yoke did vanish.

Wept they did, but now betwixt

Sighs of woe were glad sights mix’d,

With arms cross’d, yet testifying

Restless rest, and living dying.

Their ears hungry of each word,

Which the dear tongue would afford,

But their tongues restrain’d from walking

Till their hearts had ended talking,

But when their tongues could not speak,

Love itself did silence break;

Love did set his lips asunder,

Thus to speak in love and wonder:

“Stella, sovereign of my joy,

Fair triumpher of annoy,

Stella star of heavn’ly fire,

Stella lodestone of desire;

Stella in whose shining eyes

Are the lights of Cupid’s skies,

Whose beams when they one are darted,

Love therewith is straight imparted;

“Stella, whose voice when it speaks,

Senses all asunder breaks;

Stella, whose voice when it singeth,

Angels to acquaintance bringeth;

“Stella, in whose body is

Writ each character of bliss,

Whose face all, all beauty passeth,

Save thy mind, which yet surpasseth:

“Grant, oh grant--but speech alas

Fails me, fearing on to pass--

Grant, oh me, what am I saying?

But no fault there is in praying.

“Grant, oh dear, on knees I pray,”

(Knees on ground he then did stay)

“That not I, but since I love you,

Time and place for me may move you.

“Never season was more fit,

Never room more apt for it;

Smiling air allows my reason,

These birds sing, ‘Now use the season.’

“This small wind, which so sweet is,

See how it the leaves doth kiss;

Each tree in his best attiring,

Sense of love to love inspiring.

“Love makes earth the water drink,

Love to earth makes water sink;

And if dumb things be so witty,

Shall a heav’nly grace want pity?”

There his hands in their speech, fain

Would have made tongue’s language plain;

But her hands his hands repelling,

Gave repulse, all grace excelling.

Then she spake; her speech was such

As not ear but heart did touch:

While such wise she love denied,

As yet love she signified.

“Astrophil,” said she, “my love,

Cease in these effects to prove:

Now be still, yet still believe me,

Thy grief more than death would grieve me.

“If that any thought in me

Can taste comfort but of thee,

Let me, fed with hellish anguish,

Joyless, hopeless, endless languish.

“If those eyes you praised, be

Half so dear as you to me,

Let me home return, stark blinded

Of those eyes, and blinder minded.

“If to secret of my heart

I do any wish impart

Where thou art not foremost plac’d,

Be both wish and I defac’d.

“If more may be said, I say,

All my bliss in thee I lay;

If thou love, my love content thee,

For all love, all faith is meant thee.

“Trust me, while I thee deny,

In myself the smart I try;

Tyrant Honour doth thus use thee

Stella’s self might not refuse thee.

“Therefore, dear, this no more move,

Lest, though I leave not thy love,

Which too deep in me is fram’d,

I should blush when thou art nam’d.”

Therewithal away she went,

Leaving him so passion-rent

With what she had done and spoken,

That therewith my song is broken.

In a richly shaded grove,

Where birds made wanton music,

While May was still young, showing its multi-coloured clothes,

And freshly perfumed with the newly opened flowers,

Astrophil met with sweet Stella

For mutual consolation,

Both oppressed in themselves

But blessed in each other.

Great trouble had taught him great sorrows:

Her lovely neck bore a foul yoke (of marriage):

But sight of her banished his cares,

And sight of him freed her from her yoke.

The had wept for a while, alas:

But now their very tears smiled,

While their eyes directed by love

Reflected each other mutually.

They sighed but glad sighs

Were mixed with the sighs of woe,

Arms crossed in a melancholy pose, but witnessing

To a restless calm, to a life-in-death.

Their ears longing for every word

That their dear tongues could offer,

But their tongues held from moving

Until their hearts had finished talking.

But though their tongues could not speak,

Love itself broke the silence:

Love opened his lips

To speak, in love and wonder:

‘Stella, queen of my joy,

Lovely conqueror of annoyance,

Stella, star of heavenly fire,

Stella, lodestone of desire:

Stella, in whose shining eyes

Are the sun and moon of Cupid’s skies,

Whose beams impart love straight away

To whatever they once are fired at:

Stella whose voice shatters the senses

When it speaks:

Stella whose voice acquaints us

With the angels when it sings:

Stella in whose body

Each letter of bliss is written:

Whose face exceeds all beauty,

All except your mind which surpasses the rest:

Grant, O grant (but alas speech

Fails me, fearing to continue):

Grant (O, what am I saying?

Still there is nothing wrong with praying).

Grant, O my dear, on my knees I pray,

(He then knelt on the ground)

That, since I love you, not me

But the time and place might move you.

There was never a season more suited,

Nor a place more fitting for it:

The smiling air concedes my point,

The birds sing: ‘Now, make use of the season.’

See how this light wind which is so sweet

Kisses the leaves,

Each tree being in its loveliest foliage,

Breathing the knowledge of love to the lover.

Love makes the earth drink water,

Love makes water sink into the earth:

And if dumb things are so intelligent,

Shall your heavenly grace be lacking in pity?’

At this point his hands sought to use their language

To make the tongue’s meaning clear:

But her hands repulsing his hands,

Pushed him away, gracefully.

Then she spoke: her speech was such

As touched the heart and not just the ears:

While she denied such love as his,

Her speech still signified love.

‘Astrophil, my love,’ she said,

‘Stop trying to force these embraces:

Be still, but still believe me,

Your grief would grieve me more than death.

If any thought of mine could comfort me

Except my thoughts of you,

Let me be fed with the anguish of hell,

And languish forever, joyless and hopeless.

If the eyes that you praised

Are half as dear to me as you are,

Let me return home with blind eyes,

And with my mind even more blind.

If I add any wish

To the secret of my heart,

Where you are not supreme in it,

Let me and my wish both be destroyed.

If anything more can be said, I will say

That I place all my bliss in you:

If you love, be content with my love,

Since all love and loyalty to you is intended.

Believe me, that while I deny you

I testify to the pain in myself:

It is honour, the tyrant, who does this to you,

Stella’s own inner self would not refuse you.

So, don’t request this any more, love,

In case, though I cannot leave off loving you,

That love being too deep within me,

I should be forced to blush when you are named.’

With this she went away,

Leaving him so torn by passion

As a result of what she had said and done,

That because of it my song is broken off.

Ninth Song

Go, my flock, go get you hence,

Seek a better place of feeding,

Where you may have some defence

From the storms in my breast breeding,

And showers from my eyes proceeding.

Leave a wretch, in whom all woe

Can abide to keep no measure,

Merry flock, such one forego,

Unto whom mirth is displeasure,

Only rich in mischief’s treasure.

Yet alas, before you go,

Hear your woeful master’s story,

Which to stones I else would show:

Sorrow only then hath glory

When ‘tis excellently sorry.

Stella, fiercest shepherdess,

Fiercest but yet fairest ever;

Stella, whom O heav’ns do bless,

Though against me she persever,

Though I bliss inherit never.

Stella hath refused me,

Stella, who more love hath prov’d

In this caitiff heart to be,

Than can in good ewes be mov’d

Toward lambkins best belov’d.

Stella hath refused me,

Astrophil, that so well serv’d,

In this pleasant spring must see,

While in pride flowers be preserv’d,

Himself only winter-starv’d.

Why alas doth she then swear

That she loveth me so dearly,

Seeing me so long to bear

Coals of love that burn’d so clearly;

And yet leave me helpless merely?

Is that love? Forsooth, I trow,

If I saw my good dog griev’d,

And a help for him did know,

My love should not be believ’d

But he were by me reliev’d.

No, she hates me, wellaway,

Feigning love, somewhat to please me:

For she knows, if she display

All her hate, death soon would seize me,

And of hideous torments ease me.

Then adieu, dear flock, adieu:

But alas, if in your straying

Heav’nly Stella meet with you,

Tell her in your piteous blaying,

Her poor slave’s unjust decaying.

Go from here, my flock,

And search for a better pasture,

Where you would have some protection

From the storms breeding in my breast,

And the showers raining from my eyes.

Leave behind a wretch all sorrowful,

In whom no restraint can be maintained:

Happy flock, leave such a one

To whom mirth is displeasure,

Who’s only rich in trouble’s treasure.

Yet, alas, before you go,

Listen to your sad master’s story,

Which otherwise I would tell to the stones:

Sorrow is only glorious

When it’s justified in its sadness.

Stella, that fiercest shepherdess,

The fiercest but the loveliest ever,

Stella, may the Heavens bless her,

Though she holds out against me,

Though I should never inherit bliss;

Stella has denied me,

Stella, who has proved there is

More love in this wretched heart,

Than can be stirred in good ewes

By their dearest lambs.

Stella has refused me:

Astrophil, who has served her so well,

Must see himself winter-starved

In this pleasant spring

While flowers are protected in their glory.

Why, alas, does she swear

That she loves me so dearly,

Seeing me bearing for so long

The coals of love that burn so clearly,

Yet leave me merely helpless?

Is that love? I think, truly,

That if I saw my dog in pain,

And knew of a way to help him,

No one would believe I loved him

Unless I went to his relief.

No she hates me, sadly,

Feigning love a little so as to please me,

Because she knows if she showed

All her dislike, death would soon seize me,

And ease me of my hideous torment.

So farewell, my flock, farewell:

But, alas, if in your straying

Heavenly Stella meets you

Tell her with your pitiful bleating,

Of her poor slave’s unjust wasting.


When I was forc’d from Stella, ever dear

Stella, food of my thoughts, heart of my heart;

Stella, whose eyes make all my tempests clear,

By iron laws of duty to depart:

Alas I found that she with me did smart;

I saw that tears did in her eyes appear;

I saw that sighs her sweetest lips did part,

And her sad words my saddest sense did hear.

For me, I wept to see pearls scatter’d so;

I sigh’d her sighs, and wailed for her woe,

Yet swam in joy, such love in her was seen.

Thus, while th’effect most bitter was to me,

And nothing than the cause more sweet could be,

I had been vex’d, if vex’d I had not been.

When I was forced to leave ever-dear Stella,

Stella, food of my thoughts, heart of my heart,

Stella, whose eyes clear away all my storms,

Bound to depart by the iron laws of duty:

Alas, I found that she was hurt because of me,

I saw that tears appeared in her eyes;

I saw that sighs parted her sweetest lips,

And my saddened mind heard her sad words.

I wept to see such pearls scattered for me,

I sighed her sighs, and cried for her sadness,

Yet swam in joy that such love was seen in her.

So, when the effect was deeply bitter to me,

Yet nothing could be sweeter than the cause,

I would have been in conflict within myself, if I were not already.


Out, traitor Absence, darest thou counsel me

From my dear captainess to run away,

Because in brave array here marched she

That to win me, oft shows a present pay?

Is faith so weak? Or is such force in thee?

When sun is hid, can stars such beams display?

Cannot heav’n’s food, once felt, keep stomachs free

From base desire on earthly cates to prey?

Tush, Absence, while thy mists eclipse that light,

My orphan sense flies to th’inward sight

Where memory sets forth the beams of love;

That where before heart lov’d and eyes did see,

In heart both sight and love now coupl’d be;

United powers make each the stronger prove.

Away Absence, you traitor: dare you advise me

To turn away from my dear commander,

Because another marches here, finely turned-out,

Who often displays a present affection, to win me?

Is loyalty so weak? Or is there such power in you (absence)?

When the sun is hidden, can the stars display its equivalent?

Cannot heaven’s food once tasted keep the stomach free

From a base desire to feed on earthly food?

Tut, absence: while your mists obscure that light,

My orphaned mind flies to that inward sight,

Where memory reveals the rays of love:

So that where heart loved and eyes saw, previously,

Now they are both coupled together in that sight:

Powers united together make each stronger.


Now that of absence the most irksome night,

With darkest shade doth overcome my day;

Since Stella’s eyes, wont to give me my day,

Leaving my hemisphere, leave me in night,

Each day seems long, and longs for long-stay’d night;

The night as tedious, woos th’approach of day;

Tir’d with the dusty toils of busy day,

Languish’d with horrors of the silent night;

Suffering the ills both of the day and night,

While no night is more dark than is my day,

Nor no day hath less quiet than my night:

With such bad mixture of my night and day,

That living thus in blackest winter night,

I feel the flames of hottest summer day.

Now that the most unpleasant night of Absence

Covers my daylight with its darkest shadow:

Because Stella’s eyes that usually give me light,

Have left my hemisphere, leaving me in night;

Each day seems long, and longs for long-delayed night:

The night, as tedious, woos the approach of day;

Tired with the dusty labours of a busy day,

Wearied by the horrors of the silent night,

Suffering the troubles of both day and night,

While no night is darker than my day,

And no day is less quiet than my night:

With such an evil mixture of my night and day,

So that, living like this in the blackest winter night,

I still feel the flames of the hottest summer day.


Stella, think not that I by verse seek fame,

Who seek, who hope, who love, who live but thee;

Thine eyes my pride, thy lips my history:

If thou praise not, all other praise is shame.

Nor so ambitious am I, as to frame

A nest for praise in my young laurel tree:

In truth I swear, I wish not there should be

Grav’d in mine epitaph a poet’s name:

Ne if I would, could I just title make,

That any laud to me thereof should grow,

Without my plumes from others’ wings I take.

For nothing from my wit or will doth flow,

Since all my words thy beauty doth indite,

And Love doth hold my hand, and makes me write.

Stella, don’t think that I seek fame through verse,

I who seek, hope, love and live only yourself;

Your eyes are my pride, your lips my history;

If you fail to praise me, all other praise is shameful.

Nor am I so ambitious as to compose

A home for my fledgling praise in a laurel tree;

Truly I swear that I don’t wish there to be

The name of ‘poet’ carved in my epitaph:

No, I would, if I could, merely have such title,

That if any praise of me should afterwards arise,

It would be without my taking feathers from others’ wings.

Since nothing flows from my own will or intellect,

Rather your beauty pens all my words,

And Love holds my hand, and makes me write.

Note: The laurel is Apollo’s tree from which wreaths were cut to crown poets,

and there is also a reference here to Petrarch’s Laura.


Stella, while now by honour’s cruel might,

I am from you, light of my life, mis-led,

And that fair you, my Sun, thus overspread

With absence’ veil, I live in sorrow’s night;

If this dark place yet show like candle light

Some beauty’s piece, as amber-colour’d head,

Milk hands, rose cheeks, or lips more sweet, more red,

Or seeing jets black but in blackness bright.

They please, I do confess; they please mine eyes,

But why? Because of you they models be,

Models such be wood globes of glist’ring skies.

Dear, therefore be not jealous over me,

If you hear that they seem my heart to move.

Not them, O no, but you in them I love.

Stella, while now, because of the demands of honour,

I am led away from you, the light of my life,

And because you my lovely sun, are overcast

With the veil of absence, I live in sorrow’s night;

And if this dark place still shows like a candle-light

Some portion of beauty, an amber-coloured head of hair,

Milk-white hands, rosy cheeks, or sweeter, redder lips,

Or jet-black eyes, bright in their blackness:

They please my eyes: I confess it.

But why do they? Because they are likenesses of you,

As wooden globes act as models of the starry skies.

So, dear, don’t be jealous concerning me,

If you hear that they appear to move my heart:

It’s not them I love, O no, it’s you in them.


Be your words made, good sir, of Indian ware,

That you allow me them by so small rate?

Or do you cutted Spartans imitate,

Or do you mean my tender ears to spare,

That to my questions you so total are?

When I demand of Phoenix Stella’s state,

You say, forsooth, you left her well of late.

Oh God, think you that satisfies my care?

I would know whether she did sit or walk,

How cloth’d, how waited on; sigh’d she or smil’d;

Whereof, with whom, how often she did talk,

With what pastime time’s journey she beguil’d,

If her lips deign’d to sweeten my poor name.

Say all, and all well said, still say the same.

Are your words, good sir, made of precious Indian wares,

That you give them out so sparingly?

Or do you imitate the laconic Spartans?

Or is it because you intend to spare my tender ears

That you answer my questions so briefly?

When I ask how Stella, my phoenix, is,

You say, indeed, you left her not long ago, and she was well.

O God, do you think that satisfies my concern?

I wish to know whether she sat or walked;

How she was dressed, how waited on: did she sigh or smile,

How often, where, and with whom, did she talk;

With what pastimes did she pass time’s journey;

Whether her lips deigned to repeat my name sweetly.

Tell me everything, and, when it’s all said, go on saying it.

Tenth Song

Oh dear life, when shall it be

That mine eyes thine eyes may see?

And in them thy mind discover,

Whether absence have had force

Thy remembrance to divorce

From the image of thy lover?

Or if I myself find not,

After parting, aught forgot,

Nor debarr’d from beauty’s treasure,

Let no tongue aspire to tell,

In what high joys I shall dwell,

Only thought aims at the pleasure.

Thought, therefore I will send thee

To take up the place for me;

Long I will not after tarry.

There unseen thou mayst be bold

Those fair wonders to behold

Which in them my hopes do carry.

Thought, see thou no place forbear,

Enter bravely everywhere,

Seize on all to her belonging;

But if thou wouldst guarded be,

Fearing her beams, take with thee

Strength of liking, rage of longing.

Think of that most grateful time

When my leaping heart will climb

In her lips to have his biding:

There those roses for to kiss,

Which do breath a sugar’d bliss,

Opening rubies, pearls dividing.

Think of my most princely power,

When I blessed shall devour

With my greedy licorous senses

Beauty, music, sweetness, love,

While she doth against me prove

Her strong darts but weak defenses.

Think, think of those dallyings,

When with dove-like murmurings,

With glad moaning passed anguish,

We change eyes, and heart for heart,

Each to other do impart,

Joying till joy make us languish.

Oh my thought, my thoughts’ surcease,

Thy delights my woes increase,

My life melts with too much thinking.

Think no more, but die in me,

Till thou shalt revived be

At her lips, my nectar drinking.

O, dear life, when will I

Be able to view your eyes?

And find from them whether,

In your mind, Absence has had the power

To free your memory

From the image of me, your lover?

O, if I find that

After this separation

I am not shut out from beauty’s treasure,

Let no tongue hope to say

What great joy I will experience:

Thought alone can aspire to that delight.

So, I will send you, Thought,

To establish my place for me:

I won’t be slow to follow.

There, invisible, you may dare

To look on those wonders

That carry my hopes with them.

Thought, see that you go everywhere:

Enter confidently and seize

On everything that belongs to her:

But if you wish to defend yourself,

Fearing her gaze, take with you

Strength of liking, and rage of longing.

Think of that pleasing time

When my leaping heart will climb

To my lips to achieve its desire,

To kiss those roses (lips) there

That breathe a sugared bliss,

Rubies opening, dividing pearls.

Think of my princely power

When, blessed, I will devour

With my greedy, lustful senses,

Beauty, music, sweetness, love,

While she tries her fierce arrows,

But weak defences, against me.

Think, think of those dallyings,

When, with dove-like murmurings,

Anguish past, with glad moaning,

We exchange gazes, and heart for heart,

Communicate with each other,

Joying till joy makes us languish.

O my Thought suspend all thought,

Your delights increase my sorrows,

My life melts with too much thinking:

Think no more but die in me,

Until you are revived

Drinking my nectar (this song, sung by her) at her lips.


Oh fate, oh fault, oh curse, child of my bliss,

What sobs can give words grace my grief to show?

What ink is black enough to paint my woe?

Through me, wretch me, ev’n Stella vexed is.

Yet Truth (if caitiff’s breath may call thee) this

Witness with me: that my foul stumbling so

From carelessness did in no manner grow,

But wit confus’d with too much care did miss.

And do I then myself this vain ‘scuse give?

I have (live I and know this?) harmed thee;

Though worlds ’quite me, shall I myself forgive?

Only with pains my pains thus eased be,

That all thy hurts in my heart’s wrack I read;

I cry thy sighs, my dear; thy tears I bleed.

O fate, O fault, O curse, the result of my bliss,

What tears can give words the grace to show my grief?

What ink is black enough to paint my sorrow?

On account of me, wretched me, is Stella annoyed.

Yet truth (if a base person is allowed to call on you)

Witness this with me, that my foul mistake

Was not the result of carelessness,

But thought confused by too much affection was at fault.

And do I then give myself this useless excuse?

I have (Do I know this and still live?) harmed you,

Though worlds acquit me, can I forgive myself?

My pains are only eased by pain, in this way,

That I find all your hurt in my heart’s pain:

I cry your sighs, my dear: I bleed your tears.


Grief find the words, for thou hast made my brain

So dark with misty vapours, which arise

From out thy heavy mould, that in-bent eyes

Can scarce discern the shape of mine own pain.

Do thou then (for thou canst) do thou complain

For my poor soul, which now that sickness tries,

Which ev’n to sense, sense of itself denies,

Though harbingers of death lodge there his train.

Or if thy love of plaint yet mine forbears,

As of a caitiff worthy so to die,

Yet wail thyself, and wail with causeful tears,

That though in wretchedness thy life doth lie,

Yet growest more wretched than thy nature bears

By being plac’d in such a wretch as I.

Grief, find the words, since you have made my brain

So dark with misty vapours, those that rise

From your heavy earth, that the inner eye

Can scarcely see the shape of my own pain.

Since you can, you should make lament

For my poor soul, tormented by that sickness

That even denies self any sense of itself,

Even though premonitions of death lodge there.

Or if your love of lamentation avoids mine,

As belonging to a wretch worthy of such a death,

Still, weep yourself, and weep with reason,

That though your existence is wretched,

It grows more wretched than normal,

By being placed in such a wretch as I am.


Yet Sighs, dear Sighs, indeed true friends you are,

That do not leave your least friend at the worst,

But as you with my breast I oft have nurs’d,

So grateful now you wait upon my care.

Faint coward Joy no longer tarry dare,

Seeing Hope yield when this woe strake him first:

Delight protests he is not for th’accurst,

Though oft himself my mate-in-arms he sware.

Nay Sorrow comes with such main rage, that he

Kills his own children, Tears, finding that they

By love were made apt to consort with me.

Only, true Sighs, you do not go away;

Thank may you have for such a thankful part,

Thank-worthiest yet when you shall break my heart.

Sighs, dear sighs, you are still true friends,

Who do not forsake the least of your friends when things are worst:

Rather, as I have often nursed you within my breast,

Now you in gratitude serve my sorrow.

Joy, that faint coward, no longer dares to linger,

Having seen how Hope yielded when this sadness first struck him:

Delight protests he is not destined for those accursed,

Though he often swore he was my comrade in arms.

No, Sorrow comes, with such great rage that he

Kills his own children, Tears, finding that they

Were made fit to consort with me by Love.

Only you, true sighs, do not go away:

Thanks you may have, for playing a part so deserving of thanks,

Most worthy of thanks when you finally break my heart.


Thought, with good cause thou lik’st so well the Night,

Since kind or chance gives both one livery,

Both sadly black, both blackly darken’d be,

Night barr’d from sun, thou from thy own sun’s light;

Silence in both displays his sullen might,

Slow Heaviness in both holds one degree--

That full of doubts, thou of perplexity;

Thy tears express Night’s native moisture right.

In both a mazeful solitariness:

In Night of sprites the ghastly powers stir,

In thee, or sprites or sprited ghastliness.

But, but (alas) Night’s side the odds hath far,

For that at length yet doth invite some rest,

Thou though still tir’d, yet still dost it detest.

You, Thought, have good reason to like the night so much,

Since Nature or chance gives both one colour:

Both are sadly black, both are blackly darkened,

Night is barred from the sun, you from your own sun’s (Stella’s) light:

Silence in both displays his sullen power:

Slow heaviness holds the same sway in both:

Night full of insecurity, you full of perplexity:

Your tears truly express night’s natural moisture:

In both there is a bewildering solitariness:

At night the ghastly powers of spirits stir,

In you, either spirits or spiritual horror:

But, but (alas) Night has by far the better of it,

Since eventually it does invite me to rest a little,

While you (Thought), though tired still, still hate it (rest).


Dian, that fain would cheer her friend the Night,

Shows her oft at the full her fairest race,

Bringing with her those starry nymphs, whose chase

From heav’nly standing hits each mortal wight.

But ah, poor Night, in love with Phoebus’ light,

And endlessly despairing of his grace,

Herself (to show no other joy hath place)

Silent and sad in mourning weeds doth dight:

Ev’n so (alas) a lady, Dian’s peer,

With choice delights and rarest company

Would fain drive clouds from out my heavy cheer.

But woe is me, though Joy itself were she,

She could not show my blind brain ways of joy

While I despair my Sun’s sight to enjoy.

Diana (the Moon) who would like to cheer her friend the Night,

Often shows her fairest face to her at the full,

Bringing those starry nymphs with her, whose arrows

From their heavenly station strike each mortal being.

But ah, poor Night, in love with Phoebus’ (the Sun’s) light,

And endlessly despairing of his grace,

Dresses herself, silent and sad, in mourning clothes,

To show that no other joy is of value:

In the same way (alas) a lady, Diana’s equal,

Would like to drive the clouds from my heavy mood.

But, woe is me, though she were joy itself,

She could not show my blind brain the way to joy,

While I despair of the sight of my sun (Stella).


Ah bed, the field where joy’s peace some do see,

The field where all my thoughts to war be train’d,

How is thy grace by my strange fortune stain’d!

How thy lee shores by my sighs stormed be!

With sweet soft shades thou oft invitest me

To steal some rest, but wretch I am constrain’d

(Spurr’d with Love’s spur, though gall’d and shortly rein’d

With Care’s hard hand) to turn and toss in thee.

While the black horrors of the silent night

Paint woe’s black face so lively to my sight,

That tedious leisure marks each wrinkled line:

But when Aurora leads out Phoebus’ dance

Mine eyes then only wink, for spite perchance,

That worms should have their Sun, and I want mine.

Ah, Bed, the field where some see joy’s peace,

The field where all my thoughts are trained on war,

How your grace is stained by my strange fate!

How your lee (unsafe, downwind) shores are assaulted by my sighs!

You invite me, with sweet soft shadows,

To steal some rest: but, wretched, I am constrained

(Spurred by love’s spur, though sore, and reined in tight,

By Care’s harsh hand) to toss and turn, in you:

While the black horrors of the silent night

Paint sorrow’s black face so clearly to my sight,

That tedious leisure notes each wrinkled line:

But when Aurora (Dawn) leads out Phoebus’ (the Sun’s) dance,

Only then do my eyes close, perhaps from spite

That worms should have their sun, and I lack mine (Stella).


When far-spent night persuades each mortal eye,

To whom nor art nor nature granteth light,

To lay his then mark-wanting shafts of sight,

Clos’d with their quivers, in sleep’s armoury;

With windows ope then most my mind doth lie,

Viewing the shape of darkness and delight,

Takes in that sad hue which the inward night

Of his maz’d powers keeps perfect harmony;

But when birds charm, and that sweet air which is

Morn’s messenger, with rose enamel’d skies,

Calls each wight to salute the flower of bliss,

In tomb of lids then buried are mine eyes,

Forc’d by their lord, who is asham’d to find

Such light in sense, with such a darken’d mind.

When the depths of night persuade each mortal eye,

To which neither art or nature grants light,

To lay down its arrows of sight that lack a target,

Shut, with their quivers (eyeballs), in sleep’s armoury:

My mind most often lies with windows (eyes) open,

Viewing the shape of darkness, and delight:

Absorbing that dark colour, which is in perfect harmony

With the inner darkness of its baffled thoughts:

But when the birds’ chorus, and that sweet breeze which is

Morning’s messenger, with rose-tinted skies

Call each person to salute the flowers of bliss:

Then my eyes are buried in a tomb of eyelids,

Forced to be so, by their owner, who is ashamed to find

Such light available to his senses while his mind is so dark.


Oh tears, no tears, but rain from Beauty’s skies,

Making those lilies and those roses grow,

Which aye most fair, now more than most fair show,

While graceful Pity Beauty beautifies.

Oh honeyed sighs, which from that breast do rise,

Whose pants do make unspilling cream to flow,

Wing’d with whose breath, so pleasing zephyrs blow

As can refresh the hell where my soul fries;

Oh plaints conserv’d in such a sugar’d phrase

That Eloquence itself envies your praise

While sobb’d-out words a perfect music give.

Such tears, sighs, plaints, no sorrow is but joy:

Or if such heav’nly signs must prove annoy,

All mirth farewell, let me in sorrow live.

O tears, which are not tears but rain, from beauty’s skies,

Making those lilies and those roses grow

Which always lovely, now appear more than lovely,

When graceful Pity beautifies Beauty;

O honeyed sighs, that rise from that breast,

Whose panting makes unspoilt cream flow,

Winged with whose breath such pleasing zephyrs blow

As are able to refresh the hell where my soul burns;

O complaints, conserved in such a sugared phrase

That eloquence itself envies your praise,

While words, sobbed out, make a perfect music;

Such tears, sighs, complaints are not sorrows, but joy:

Or if such heavenly signs must prove to be harmful,

Farewell all mirth, and let me live in sorrow.


Stella is sick, and in that sickbed lies

Sweetness, that breathes and pants as oft as she:

And Grace, sick too, such fine conclusions tries

That Sickness brags itself best grac’d to be.

Beauty is sick, but sick in so fair guise

That in that paleness Beauty’s white we see,

And Joy, which is inseparate from those eyes,

Stella now learns (strange case) to weep in thee.

Love moves thy pain, and like a faithful page,

As thy looks stir, runs up and down to make

All folks press’d at thy will thy pain t’assuage.

Nature with care sweats for her darling’s sake,

Knowing worlds pass, ere she enough can find

Of such heav’n stuff, to clothe so heav’nly mind.

Stella is ill, and in that sick-bed sweetness lies,

That breathes and pants as often as she (Stella) does;

And grace, also ill, engages in such subtle trials,

That sickness boasts that it is the most graced of states.

Beauty is ill, but ill in such a lovely way

That we see beauty’s whiteness in that paleness;

And Joy, which is inseparable from those eyes,

Stella now learns (strangely) to weep in you (to weep in joy).

Love takes action at your pain, and like a faithful page,

As your glance moves, runs up and down to make

All people ready to relieve your pain as you wish;

Nature with care sweats for her darling’s sake,

Knowing worlds pass, before she can find

Enough heavenly matter to clothe such a heavenly mind.


Where be those roses gone, which sweeten’d so our eyes?

Where those red cheeks, which oft with fair increase did frame

The height of honour in the kindly badge of shame?

Who hath the crimson weeds stol’n from my morning skies?

How did the colour vade of those vermilion dyes

Which Nature self did make, and self engrain’d the same?

I would know by what right this paleness overcame

That hue, whose force my heart still unto thraldom ties.

Galen’s adoptive sons, who by a beaten way

Their judgments hackney on, the fault on sickness lay,

But feeling proof makes me say they mistake it far:

It is but Love, which makes his paper perfect white

To write therein more fresh the story of delight,

While Beauty’s reddest ink Venus for him doth stir.

Where are those roses gone that so sweetened our eyes?

Where those red cheeks that often, with a lovely heightening

Of their colour, framed high honour with shame’s pleasant stain?

Who has stolen the crimson clouds from my morning skies?

What makes the colour of those vermilion dyes fade,

That Nature made itself, and itself ingrained the dye?

I want to know by what right this paleness overcame

That colour whose power still binds my heart in slavery.

Galen’s (the Physician’s) followers, who pass hackneyed

Judgements based on an antiquated method, blame it on illness,

But heart-felt evidence makes me say they greatly err in this,

It is merely Love, who makes his paper a perfect white

In order to write the story of delight more freshly,

While Venus mixes Beauty’s reddest ink (blushes) for him.

Note: Galen’s ‘sons’ are the followers of the Greek Physician.


Oh happy Thames, that didst my Stella bear,

I saw thyself, with many a smiling line

Upon thy cheerful face, Joy’s livery wear,

While those fair planets on thy streams did shine.

The boat for joy could not to dance forbear,

While wanton winds with beauties so divine

Ravish’d, stay’d not, till in her golden hair

They did themselves (O sweetest prison) twine.

And fain those Aeol’s youth there would their stay

Have made, but, forc’d by Nature still to fly,

First did with puffing kiss those locks display:

She so dishevel’d, blush’d; from window I

With sight thereof cried out; oh fair disgrace,

Let Honour self to thee grant highest place.

O happy River Thames, that carried my Stella,

I saw you wear the appearance of Joy,

With many a smiling ripple on your cheerful surface,

While those fair planets (her eyes) shone on your streams.

The boat could not prevent itself dancing for joy,

While straying winds, ravished by such divine

Beauties, would not rest until they had twined themselves

In her golden hair (O the sweetest of prisons).

And those breezes (Aeolian winds) wished to rest there,

But being forced to keep flying on by Nature

Displayed her hair, with kissing puffs of air, before they did so.

She, dishevelled in that way, blushed: I cried out

At the sight from my window, saying: ‘O fair disgrace,

Let honour itself grant you first place.’

Note: Aeolus (Sydney’s Aeol) was god of the winds in Greek mythology.


Envious wits, what hath been mine offence,

That with such poisonous care my looks you mark,

That to each word, nay sigh of mine you hark,

As grudging me my sorrow’s eloquence?

Ah, is it not enough that I am thence?

Thence, so far thence, that scarcely any spark

Of comfort dare come to this dungeon dark,

Where rigorous exile locks up all my sense?

But if I by a happy window pass,

If I but stars upon mine armour bear

--Sick, thirsty, glad (though but of empty glass):

Your moral notes straight my hid meaning tear

From out my ribs, and puffing prove that I

Do Stella love. Fools, who doth it deny?

Envious minds, what offence have I committed

That you examine my looks with such poisonous care.

And listen to every word and sigh of mine,

As if you grudged me the eloquence of my sorrow?

Is it not enough that I am far, far from Stella,

So far, that scarcely any spark of comfort

Dares to come into this dark dungeon

Where the rigour of exile imprisons all my senses?

Yet if I’m fortunate enough to pass by a certain window,

If I wear Stella’s emblems, stars, on my armour,

Sick, thirsty, glad (though only of the empty glass):

Your moralising words immediately tear my hidden meaning

From out of my ribs, and proudly show that I

Love Stella. Fools, who denies it?

Eleventh Song

“Who is it that this dark night

Underneath my window plaineth?”

It is one who from thy sight

Being (ah!) exil’d, disdaineth

Every other vulgar light.

“Why alas, and are you he?

Be not yet those fancies chang’d?”

Dear, when you find change in me,

Though from me you be estrang’d,

Let my change to ruin be.

“Well, in absence this will die.

Leave to see, and leave to wonder.”

Absence sure will help, if I

Can learn how myself to sunder

From what in my heart doth lie.

“But time will these thoughts remove:

Time doth work what no man knoweth.”

Time doth as the subject prove:

With time still the affection groweth

In the faithful turtledove.

“What if you new beauties see?

Will not they stir new affection?”

I will think they pictures be

(Image like of saint’s perfection)

Poorly counterfeiting thee.

“But your reason’s purest light

Bids you leave such minds to nourish.”

Dear, do Reason no such spite;

Never doth thy beauty flourish

More than in my reason’s sight.

“But the wrongs love bears will make

Love at length leave undertaking.”

No. The more fools it do shake,

In a ground of so firm making,

Deeper still they drive the stake.

“Peace, I think that some give ear.

Come no more, lest I get anger.”

Bliss, I will my bliss forbear,

Fearing, sweet, you to endanger,

But my soul shall harbour there.

“Well, be gone. Be gone, I say,

Lest that Argus’ eyes perceive you.”

Oh unjustest fortune’s sway,

Which can make me thus to leave you

And from louts to run away!

‘Who is it that complains

Beneath my window, this dark night?’

It is one who being (alas) exiled

From your sight, disdains

Every other common light.

‘Why, are you he, alas?

Are those fanciful ideas not altered yet?’

Dear, when you find I have altered,

Though you are estranged from me,

Let my alteration be to a state of ruin.

‘Well, the ability to see and to wonder

Will die because of absence.’

Certainly, absence will help, if I

Can learn how to separate my self

From what exists in my heart.

‘But time will erase these thoughts:

Time achieves what no one can conceive of.’

Time suits itself to the subject:

Affection continues to grow with time

In the faithful turtle-dove.

‘What if you see fresh beauties,

Won’t they stir a new affection?’

I will think them merely pictures

(Like images of a saint’s perfection)

Poorly representing you.

‘But your reason’s purest light

Gives you leave to nourish such states of mind.’

Dear, don’t do reason such wrong;

Your beauty never flourishes more

Than in my reason’s sight.

‘But the wrongs your love suffers

Will make love at last stop trying.’

No, the more it shakes fools,

When their love is so firmly established,

They drive the stake of love still deeper.

‘Peace, I think that someone can hear:

Come no more, lest I grow angry.’

Bliss, I will forgo my bliss,

Fearing (sweet) to endanger you,

But my soul will remain here.

‘Well, be gone, be gone, I say,

Lest that Argus’s eyes see you.’

O most unjust fortune’s power

That can make me so leave you,

And run away from these nobodies.

Note: The many-eyed Argus was set to guard the Io, Jupiter’s mistress, after her transformation into a heifer. He was lulled to sleep and killed by Mercury, and then transformed by Juno into a peacock. (Ovid: Metamorphoses I:622-746)


Unhappy sight, and hath she vanish’d by

So near, in so good time, so free a place?

Dead glass, dost thou thy object so embrace,

As what my heart still sees thou canst not spy?

I swear by her I love and lack, that I

Was not in fault, who bent thy dazzling race

Only unto the heav’n of Stella’s face,

Counting but dust what in the way did lie.

But cease, mine eyes; your tears do witness well

That you, guiltless thereof, your nectar miss’d:

Curs’d be the page from whom the bad torch fell.

Curs’d be the night which did your strife resist,

Curs’d be the coachman which did drive so fast,

With no worse curse than absence makes me taste.

Unhappy Sight, has she passed by and gone,

So near, at so good a time, in so open a place?

Dead glass (his power of vision) do you so grasp your object

That you cannot see what my heart still can?

I swear by her I love and lack that I

Was not at fault, who turned your (his vision’s) dazzling course

Solely towards the heaven of Stella’s face,

Counting what was between as merely dust.

But cease, my eyes, your tears witness truly

That you, innocently, missed your nectar:

May the pageboy who dropped a failed torch

And the night that resisted your attempts to see,

And the coachman who drove away so fast, be cursed

With a curse no less than absence makes me taste.


Oh absent presence, Stella is not here;

False flattering Hope, that with so fair a face

Bare me in hand, that in this orphan place,

Stella, I say my Stella, should appear:

What say’st thou now? Where is that dainty cheer

Thou told’st mine eyes should help their famish’d case?

But thou art gone, now that self-felt disgrace

Doth make me most to wish my comfort near.

But here I do store of fair ladies meet,

Who may with charm of conversation sweet

Make in my heavy mould new thought to grow:

Sure they prevail as much with me as he

That bade his friend, but then new maim’d, to be

Merry with him, and not think of his woe.

O absent presence, Stella is not here;

False flattering Hope that with so fair a face

Deceived me into thinking that in this bereaved place

Stella, I say my Stella, would appear.

What do you say now, where is that sweet food

You told my eyes would help their hungry state?

But you (hope) are gone, now that self-perceived disgrace

Makes me wish most deeply that your comfort were near.

But here I meet many lovely ladies,

Who may make new thoughts grow in my heavy soil

With the charm of their sweet conversation:

Certainly they succeed as effectively with me

As the man who told his friend, newly wounded,

To be merry with him, and not think of his sorrow.


Stella, since thou so right a princess art

Of all the powers which life bestows on me,

That ere by them aught undertaken be

They first resort unto that sovereign part;

Sweet, for a while give respite to my heart,

Which pants as though it still should leap to thee,

And on my thoughts give thy lieutenancy

To this great cause, which needs both use and art;

And as a queen, who from her presence sends

Whom she employs, dismiss from thee my wit,

Till it have wrought what thy own will attends.

On servant’s shame oft master’s blame doth sit;

Oh let not fools in me thy works reprove,

And scorning say, “See what it is to love.”

Stella, since you are so truly a princess

Over all the powers that life grants me,

So that before they undertake anything

They first refer to your sovereign direction;

Sweet, let my heart alone for a while,

Which pants as though it should still leap towards you:

And give your authority to my thoughts

In this great cause that needs experience and art;

And like a queen who sends those she employs

From her presence, send my wit away from you,

Until it has created what your own wish waits for.

Often the master is blamed for the servant’s shame;

O don’t let fools reprove your actions, in me,

And say, scornfully: ‘See what it is to love.’


When sorrow (using mine own fire’s might)

Melts down his lead into my boiling breast;

Through that dark furnace to my heart oppress’d

There shines a joy from thee, my only light;

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,

Clips straight my wings, straight wraps me in his night,

And makes me then bow down my head and say,

“Ah, what doth Phoebus’ gold that wretch avail

Whom iron doors do keep from use of day?”

So strangely (alas) thy works in me prevail,

That in my woes for thee thou art my joy,

And in my joys for thee my only annoy.

When sorrow (using the heat of my own passion)

Melts down his lead into my boiling breast,

Through that dark furnace, to my oppressed heart,

A joy shines from you, my only light;

But as soon as thought of you gives birth to my delight,

And my young soul flutters to you, his nest,

Raw despair, my daily guest though unasked,

Immediately clips my wings, and wraps me in his night,

And then makes me bow my head and say:

Ah, what use is Apollo’s gold (sunlight) to that wretch

Whom iron doors keep from enjoying the day?

So strangely (alas) do your actions rule me,

That, in my sadness concerning you, you are still my joy,

And in my joys concerning you, you are my only suffering.

Note: There are a hundred and eight sonnets, and also a hundred and eight stanzas in the eleven songs, being the number of Penelope’s suitors in Homer. (Odyssey Book XVI:245). Each sonnet and stanza is therefore a ‘suitor’ sent on behalf of Astrophil (Sidney) to Stella (Penelope Rich).

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