Delia was first published in 1591 and appeared in a volume of poetry containing 28 of Samuel Daniel's sonnets and a stolen quarto of Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella. Sidney had been dead for five years, and the Sidney family was under-standly affronted by this unauthorized printing; consequently, the volume was withdrawn. Nevertheless, Daniel was not held accountable, and a year later he republished Delia with A Complaint of Rosamond, dedicating it to Sidney's sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, countess of Pembroke, in attempt to secure her patronage. Scholars have suggested that the first clandestine printing was a tactical maneuver on Daniel's part because he chose the same printer for the reprint, thus negating his previous claim of embarassment.
Daniel uses the English sonnet pattern for his sonnets. At one point, a corona occurs as each last line of the couplet begins the first line of the next quatrain. Daniel also adopts the structure of the Spenserian sonnet for five of his poems, which would suggest, as scholars note, that throughout the numerous revisions of Delia, Daniels was privy to Edmund Spenser's Amoretti (1595). As well, critics have identified Sonnets 9, 15, 29, 30 as translations or adaptations of Philippe Desportes' sonnets to Diane (1573), Sonnets 18 and 22 as borrowed from L'Olive (1549-50) by Joachim du Bellay, Sonnet 16 from Petrarch, and Sonnet 31 from Torquato Tasso. Other sources cited by critics include Luigi Tansillo and Giovanni Battista Guarini. Despite the fact that he paraphrased from his sources, the end result is original work. Delia adopts Petrarchan conceits; however, unlike other sonnet sequences, it does not follow a dramatic progression but instead is rhetorical in form. As well, Delia alludes to mythology, but as one critic notes, there is an essential difference between prior and contemporary references to myths in love poetry. Daniel inserts his
DELIA: SONNET 6 143
allusions as psychological experiences rather than as miniature narratives, thereby constructing a character's emotional state.
Delia deals with the passionate and artless love of a poet-speaker who is seemingly more interested in gaining his beloved's love than in poetic renown. Delia is often depicted as a frowning lady with eyes as bright as stars, as cruel as she is fair. The poet-speaker, on the other hand, protests his sincerity and frequently refers to "limning" (painting) as being a means to counterfeit emotion, unlike his own expressions of woe for not being able to secure Delia's love. Interestingly, the final sonnet of the sequence ends with a seemingly coy, "I say no more, I feare I said too much"; however, given that Daniel revised Delia six times over a period of 10 years, it is not surprising that there is some confusion in the poet-speaker's self-representation (Sonnet 55, l. 14).
of the 28 sonnets from the first unauthorized printing, only 22 were included in the official 1592 edition dedicated to the countess of Pembroke, which comprised 50 sonnets. The sequence was augmented by five sonnets in the 1594 printing, and 18 of the 55 were reused. In the 1595 and 1598 printings, there were changes made, and the last printing in 1601 saw the greatest number of revisions made.
Delia provokes critical curiosity for two major reasons. First, this sonnet sequence was written soon after the period in Daniel's life about which critics know least, 1586-92. Second, there is dissent about who Delia might have really been. Two major theories exist: Delia lived by the Avon River and was upper-class (Sonnet 53); or, Delia is Mary Sidney. More recently, critics have suggested that Delia was completely fictional, which allowed Daniels freedom for his many revisions. Whatever the case, overall Delia boasts some of the most eloquent and passionate love poetry of the period.
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