"contempt of outward things; with books in hands against glory"—and, as well, the historians—whose "old mouse-eaten records" serve to impose themselves "upon other histories, whose greatest authorities are built upon the notable foundation of hearsay" and who are "better acquainted with a thousand years ago than with the present age"—to be many rungs below poets. Sidney's valuation is that "one giveth the precept, and the other the example." The philosopher gives the precept and the historian the exemplum, but the poet "performs" both tasks, giving precepts and exempla.

In Sidney's Defense, poesy's principal concern is to present speaking pictures that do not merely expound a precept or offer examples from history; rather, these speaking pictures present what ought to be "shunned" or "followed." Hence, they are akin to the prescriptive moral tracts that were as much concerned with political circumstances as with moral context. Ultimately, Sidney's Defense is concerned with establishing the poet-humanist within the state while elevating his art by virtue of "necessary consequences" on personal conduct in the heroic and dramatic arts.

In Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney attempts to reestablish the authority of poetry in a distinctly sociopolitical fashion in order for its structures to command obedience and to have "necessary consequences." Authority itself is usually secured by either a transcendental concept, such as religion, or a phenomenologi-cal concept, such as a monarchy, or by an abstract but defined domain. To endow poetry with authority, Sidney had not only to overturn traditional hierarchies that figured the poet as a deceitful aesthete—unaware of the source of his knowledge—against the historian and moral philosopher, but also to reendow words with secular weight. Elizabeth I demanded loyalty and service in a courtly rhetoric that subsumed the language of courtship and chivalry (based in deferred and enforced self-governance of desire). It did not tolerate any instruction or counsel that implied a usurpation of royal power and prerogative. In the Defense of Poesy, what Sidney offers instead is a counter to the queen.

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