Defense Of Poesy The 141

as having a second-rate relationship to the truth, to actual knowledge. Poets represent, imitate, and mimic the world. Such representations are already imitations; thus no truth inheres in them.

As a consequence of Plato's criticism, translations and other paraphrases from the scriptures, even postReformation, come headed with apologias that justify their existence for the edification of readers. The poet as creator must clarify the intentions of his work and show its usefulness to society. Furthermore, Plato's criticism presents a double problem for the poet. By linking poetry to what is useful, the poet must then delineate the usefulness of his or her work, thereby opening it up to the full range of Plato's other criticisms.

In Defense of Poesy, Sidney's first response to the premise that poets are liars is to claim that "the poet, he nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth." To dignify his art, he turns to Aristotle's claim that poetry is a "more philosophical and more serious thing than history; poetry tends to speak of universals, history of particulars" (Aristotle, Poetics 3.2.351b5-10). That is, history speaks of what happened and poetry of what ought to.

In his somewhat contradictory efforts to reestablish the authority of poetry, Sidney begins by disavowing it as his chosen profession, calling it "my unelected vocation." Through this awkward mechanism, Sidney exchanges the poet's passive role of inspired observer, one who reflects on gods, for the active role of man of action (soldier) and man of influence (statesman and courtier). Sidney's posturing as an "author" relieved of the stigma of "poet" enables him to speak powerfully on poetry's behalf as an objective observer, even while he argues against unjust characterizations.

Second, Sidney proclaims poetry the chosen base of authority for historians, the repository of classical knowledge, and the repository of the culture of other countries and civilizations. Moreover, Sidney bestows the poet with divinity, calling the poet "diviner, fore-seer, or prophet." Third, he makes the poet a super-divinity (or, at least, supernatural), a maker almost beyond his Maker:

only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection, lifted up with the vigour of his own invention, doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, for such as never were in nature.

After setting the poet above Nature, Sidney must distinguish the poet as maker from God as Maker, for the poet does not make a "real" world. Rather, the poet's art is not in the work but in the idea. The characterization of the poet as free-ranging "only in the zodiac of his own wit" (l. 182) encapsulates the uncontainability, the independence of poets.

Sidney avers that "the skill of each artificer standeth in that idea or fore-conceit of the work, and not in the work itself." The conceptual skill of the poet is what obliges him to the Maker, who is the ultimate authority. Sidney asks us to give right honour to the heavenly Maker of that maker, who having made man to His own likeness, set him beyond and over all the works of that second nature: which in nothing he showeth so much as in poetry, when with the force of a divine breath he bringeth things forth surpassing her doings.

Sidney's argument shifts and conceives of poetry as imitation, as mimesis, or deliberate mimicry inspired by desire. The poet's work has become a faculty, a technique in service of an end.

Next, Sidney attempts to give poetry authority by yoking it to utility, especially through the power of poetry to teach. Sidney delineates three main reasons: one, poetry imitates the "unconceivable excellencies of God"; two, poetry deals "with matters philosophical, either moral, . . . natural, . . . astronomical, . . . or historical"; three, poets partake in "the divine consideration of what may be and should be." Sidney asserts that poets imitate to teach and to delight, borrowing freely from the world, but only doing so to expand, not usurp.

Ultimately, Defense of Poesy attempts to support the poet's efforts and ennoble them by focusing on the utility of the poet to the state and denigrating "his other competitors." Of his "principal challengers," Sidney finds the moral philosophers—with their "sullen gravity" and their

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