Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the
History of an Idea. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 52 ("A strife is grown between Virtue and Love") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) In Sonnet 52, Astrophil humorously imagines the struggle between erotic desire and moral injunctions against fulfilling it as a legal case between the personified figures of Love and "Vertue" (Virtue). Though this is an Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet in form, the volta unmistakably occurs not between the octave and the sestet at line 9, but rather in the witty couplet at the end.
The first two lines outline the whole of the metaphorical lawsuit: both Virtue and Love lay claim to Stella, as if she were an object or, perhaps, a prized servant. In the rest of the first quatrain, Love claims that because Stella's "eyes" and "lips" are sexually attractive, they wear his "badge" as a servant wears the livery of his master. The second quatrain sets out the grounds of Virtue's claim to Stella. Virtue's argument is that the real Stella is not her mere body but, instead, "that vertuous soule" (l. 7). Though Virtue admits that Stella's "outside" is beautiful and that it attracts "our hearts," he maintains that Stella's outer beauty is not her essence. In the first part of the sestet, Astrophil sums up Virtue's case, once again admitting that although Stella's "beauty" and her "grace" belong to Love, nevertheless Love may not claim a place in Stella's "selfe," again meaning her soul.
The second part of the sestet is an apostrophe in which Astrophil turns to address Love directly. Here he reveals to us that he has taken Love's side in the suit, and he admits that "this demurre" puts an end or a "stay" to the suit. A demurrer is a legal term that refers to a strategy wherein an attorney admits the facts of his opponent's case—that Stella is beautiful—but argues that these facts entitle the opponent to no legal relief.
Astrophil seems on the verge of admitting defeat when, in the final couplet, he adds a final condition to the concession to Virtue. Virtue may have Stella's "selfe," he says, only if Virtue will grant to Love and to Astrophil "that body" of Stella's. This witty reversal typifies Astrophil's stance throughout the whole of Astrophil and Stella: He recognizes that his erotic desire conflicts with virtue, but he cannot help voicing its needs—as he does more famously in the final line of Sonnet 71. Sonnet 52 has been called an anti-Platonic sonnet for this reason. It is philosophically analytical in assigning qualities to the opposing categories of Love (Stella's eyes, lips, and whole body) and Virtue (her soul). However, Platonic philosophy holds that, once we analyze a situation and understand the claims of virtue, we will want to conduct ourselves virtuously. Astrophil deliberately mocks Platonic philosophy here, clearly demonstrating that he understands the notion of virtue and its demands, but insisting nevertheless on Stella's "faire outside" for his erotic pleasure.
See also Astrophil and Stella (overview); Sidney, Sir Philip.
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 53 ("In martial sports I had my cunning tried") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 53 is thought to have been written soon after Penelope Devereux (Stella) married Sir Philip Sidney's rival, Lord Rich. In this sonnet, Astrophil acknowledges his prior focus on "martial sports" (l. 1) and acknowledges that he wears "Mars' livery" (l. 6). Despite this warlike attitude, he also displays a wry awareness of the role of love in a person's life. Astrophil declares himself a "slave" to Cupid (l. 5), who must do as he is told—namely look away from the "martial" field, away from the masculine games of war, to "spie" Stella standing by a window, watching (l. 8). Sidney here stresses Stella's transformative power as she "makes the window send forth light" (l. 8). The earth "quakes," and Astrophil is so "dazzled" (l. 10) by her appearance that he "forgets to rule" and "forgets to fight" (l. 11). The exterior world is lost to him as he gazes upon her: No "trumpets sound . . . nor friendly cries" (l. 12) penetrate his senses. "Her blush" (l. 14) serves not only to facilitate Astrophil's return to normalcy but also illustrates Stella's awareness of Astro-phil's obvious love interest in her.
Sidney's use of dialogue within the sonnet was a departure from sonnet conventions, but it heightens the sense of immediacy: When Cupid addresses Astrophil as "Sir Fool" (l. 7), it adds reality to the poem and breaks up the cadence, providing a sensory jolt prior to Astrophil's stupor.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 54 ("Because I breathe not love to everyone") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) In Sonnet 54, Astrophil returns to the theme of what is said about him at court, but unlike sonnets 27 and 28, here Astrophil discusses the gossip of "courtly Nymphs" (the ladies of the court) rather than that of his rivals (l. 5). The sonnet is written in iambic pentameter and follows the Italian (Petrarchan) SONNET form. The first quatrain tells the aspects of Astrophil's behavior that elicit rumors, and the second quatrain tells us what the rumors are, so that the OCTAVE forms a single complex sentence explaining a cause and an effect. The entire sonnet has a political edge as well as an erotic one, for the political language of the Elizabethan court is very much the language of love: Elizabeth I wanted her courtiers to act as suitors for a lady's favors when they sought advancement.
The first cause for the rumors is that Astrophil does not speak of love to everyone at court. Astrophil claims not to play the role of the lover, stating that he does not wear "set colours" (black was especially fashionable in the late Elizabethan court because it signified melancholy, a lover's affliction similar to lovesickness), nor does he covet locks of the beloved's hair (an affectation common to Petrarchan poetic imagery). The ladies expect male courtiers to play the role of lovers, bearing "Love's standard" in their speech, as Astrophil puts it, but because Astrophil refuses to play the lover, the ladies say that Astrophil cannot love. In political terms, this is effectively to say that he cannot gain the queen's favor—that he is both politically and sexually impotent.
At the sonnet's volta, beginning with line 9, Astro-phil poses as a man content to hear such things said about him. As long as his beloved Stella knows what he really thinks, he does not care what others think of him. In line 11, he turns to address the ladies directly, admonishing them that true love lies "in the hart" (l. 12) rather than in outward affectations. Astrophil implicitly compares himself to a silent ("Dumbe") swan (l. 13), while he unflatteringly compares other courtiers who speak the language of love to "chatring" magpies, which sets up the end of this increasingly self-righteous little sermon: He argues that only those who "quake to say they love" are true lovers (l. 14).
Because of its anti-Petrarchan appearance and its claims to distinguish the mere ornaments of love from the real thing, this sonnet has been taken as an important precursor to 17th-century love poetry, especially that of John Donne. The irony is, of course, that Astrophil has actually been very talkative indeed. This sonnet stands in the middle of a sonnet sequence—108 in total—all about Astrophil's love, and so it is difficult to take his claims not to play the lover very seriously. As so often happens in Astrophil and Stella, Astrophil presents us with a witty and rational argument, only to subvert it in the end by revealing how taken with passion he really is.
See also Astrophil and Stella (overview); Sidney, Sir Philip.
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 56 ("Fie, school of Patience, fie, your lesson is") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 56 is an apostrophe to the figure of Patience, personified as a schoolmaster. Astrophil plays the part of the reluctant student, and Stella is the book. Sir Philip Sidney uses the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet form here, and while we find the expected turn at the beginning of line 9, Astrophil adds the final twist to his argument in the last three lines (the last half of the sestet). Most of the critical attention to the poem focuses on its rhyme, which is seen to be rather strained, and on the fact that in the first quatrain of Astrophil and Stella, the positions of this sonnet and Sonnet 55 have been reversed.
In the first half of the octave, Astrophil complains that the lesson Patience teaches is too long to be mem-orized—to be learned "without booke"—and asserts that he cannot remember the whole thing—Patience's "large precepts"—because he has not seen his book for an entire week (ll. 2, 4). In the second half of the octave, Astrophil reveals that his book is actually Stella's face. Stella's face bears fair "letters" that, when Astrophil reads them, "teach vertue" (ll. 5-6). Astro-phil essentially tells his schoolmaster, Patience, that he possesses patience when he can see Stella's face, but to hear the lesson without seeing Stella is more than he can tolerate, or "brooke." He then rather arrogantly suggests that even when he listens to Patience, he takes its advice like that of a well-meaning but misinformed or dull-witted friend.
Astrophil begins the sestet by repeating his previous point. He poses it as a rhetorical question: Now that he can no longer see Stella (want here means "lack," so that Astrophil is saying he lacks the sight of Stella before him), he asks, can Patience seriously believe that Astrophil would heed his advice? Patience's counsel is "cold stuff," in which can be found only a "phlegmatick" delight. Of the four humors, phlegm was thought to be the cold and moist humor in Renaissance natural philosophy, what we might call a "wet blanket" thrown on Astrophil's passion—the "fire" of the last line.
In the end, we can see Astrophil most impatiently stamping his foot, telling the schoolmaster Patience that if he wants to do some good for his pupil, he must make Stella return and listen to his expressions of love patiently herself. Part of the genius of this poem is the childish tone it evokes: Astrophil begins chiding with "Fy . . . Fy" in the first line; he uses "What" as an interjection to begin two increasingly aggressive rhetorical questions in lines 3 and 10; he brazenly admits that he does not take Patience seriously; and finally he suggests that it is Stella who should have patience, not himself. Thus, we get the impression of a very impa-
tient schoolboy refusing to learn, and Astrophil, while appearing clever, also appears in an unflattering light.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 60 ("When my good Angel guides me to the place") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 60 describes the effects of Astrophil's effort in Sonnet 45 to make himself a fictional character, thereby encouraging Stella to love and pity his image, not himself. Discussing Stella in the third person, Astrophil begins by describing in typical Petrarchan terms his pleasure in Stella's presence. Yet as he sees Stella, he must realize that she takes no pleasure in his presence. Her eyes deliver fierce looks of disdain. When he is away from her, however, Stella laments and pities him in his absence. He is trapped in a paradoxical situation: In order to have Stella's love, he must forego her presence; if he is to have her presence, she will not love him. As in Sonnet 45, he can only win her pity through his own absence from her.
This Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet introduces sadness and dejection on the part of Astrophil that lasts through the end of the sequence. This shift is made particularly poignant by the relative levity of the previous sonnet. Sonnet 59 is a fairly lighthearted conceit of the lover competing with his lady's lapdog. This somewhat congenial domestic scene of Astrophil vying with Stella and her dog is abruptly replaced in Sonnet 60 by Astro-phil languishing far from his beloved. He gazes up, pining "all my good I do in Stella see" (l. 2), while she, in response to his gaze, "throwes only down on [him] / Thundred disdaines and lightnings of disgrace" (ll. 3— 4). The phrase all my good complicates the first quatrain. It might mean that the lover uses Stella's presence to manifest his own goodness, a narcissistic maneuver common in Petrarchan verse. Although such poems seem to be in praise of a beloved, often the speaker uses his beloved as proof of his own worth. The fact that Astrophil loves Stella says less about her worthiness than about his excellent taste in loving her. She is, however, blind to the goodness in Astrophil that she reflects. There is a gap between Astrophil's perception of himself and what Stella sees. His presence before her inspires her scorn. It is equally plausible that all my good refers more generally to the good qualities he recognizes and appreciates in Stella. Stella's response to Astrophil's gaze is itself notable because it introduces the notion that love and presence are incompatible. This incompatibility pervades Sonnet 60 and recurs throughout the rest of the sonnet sequence.
The second quatrain answers the first. If the first suggests that presence cannot lead to love, the second suggests that absence can. As soon as Astrophil is made to "fall from her site, then sweetly she / With words, wherein the Muses's treasures be, / Shewes love and pitie to [his] absent case" (ll. 6-8). Stella herself becomes a poet, her voice carrying the "Muses's treasures" (l. 7). She is inspired by the Muses of classical mythology who preside over poetry and the other arts. Her words of pity, however, require her lover's absence, which suggests that she refashions the absent Astrophil into an at least partially imagined lover whose case she wishes to plead. She has taken the advice Astrophil provides her in Sonnet 45 and has begun to "pity the tale" of him. (l. 14). Thus, the poem intimates, Stella engages in the same idealized "pres-encing" of Astrophil as he does of her in almost every poem.
Stella's paradoxical behavior makes Astrophil confused, and he expresses this confusion through oxymoron, a figure commonly used to express the torment of unrequited love in Petrarchan verse. He finds he "cannot looke into / The ground of this fierce Love and lovely hate" (ll. 10-11). This chiasmus presents the lack of logic Astrophil perceives at Stella's inability to love him while he stands before her, though she can love him when he is out of view. The illogical situation leads the language of the poem into confusion as well. Sir Philip Sidney conveys this confusion by again using oxymoron and chiasmus: "Then some good body tell me how I do, / Whose presence, absence, absence presence is; / Blist in my curse, and cursed in my blisse" (ll. 12-14). For Astrophil, his presence before the lady means his absence in her affections and vice versa. He is thus blessed by her love when he is cursed by not being near her, and cursed by her scorn when he stands blissfully before her.
The symmetrical paradox of presence and absence created in these three lines suggest a broader shift in how the language of individual poems contribute to the movement of the series as a whole. In the first poem of Astrophil and Stella, Sidney displays not only faith in his ability to "look into [his] heart and write" (l. 14) but also a faith in predictable causal chains. He predicts, "Pleasure might cause her reade, reading might make her know, / Knowledge might pitie winne, and pitie grace obtain" (ll. 2-4). The forward progression from the lady's pleasure to her pity and ultimately to graciousness to the lover so clearly mapped in the first sonnet devolves in Sonnet 60 into a cycle of pres-ence-as-absence, absence-as-presence. Astrophil's concern about the source of his poetic inspiration in Sonnet 1 is quickly solved by the last line of the poem. He will look into his heart and write. In Sonnet 60, however, frustration resides in the incompatibility of love and presence. By ending with two consecutive oxymorons, the poem leaves the reader and Astrophil with no resolution to his untenable situation.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 61 ("Oft with true sighs, oft with uncalled tears") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 61 signals the oncoming end of the relationship between Astrophil and Stella. In form and style, it indicates a break from the action of the first two-thirds of the cycle and summarizes what the reader may expect from this point on in terms of the subject and function of the poems.
Like the previous sonnets in Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 61 makes use of simple, masculine rhyme, but in other aspects it differs greatly, thus signaling the changes ahead. Semantic upheaval, indicated through simultaneous revelations of Stella's expectations from a lover—"That who indeed infelt affection bears, / So captives to his saint both soul and sense / That, wholly hers, all selfness he forbears" (ll. 5-7)—and indications of her feelings for Astrophil's love—"Now since her chaste mind hates this love in me" (l. 9)—send mixed messages about love and poetry. The sonnet's structure further reflects this juxtaposition, as it follows nei ther the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet form nor the English sonnet form. Though divided into octave and sestet, the ending rhyme scheme is eefggf in place of the hopeful final couplets found in the earlier sonnets. Astrophil and Stella are effectively separated, semanti-cally and metrically, and the status quo has been altered to an unrecognizable form. Further instability is indicated through the replacement of iambic pentameter with a more strident spondaic rhythm (e.g., "Oft with true sighs, oft with uncalled tears," l. 1), indicating finality through an authoritative voice that makes no promises as it delivers an ultimatum to the lover. The shifts in rhythm create a metrical variance within the poem that adds to the overall feeling of instability Sidney is trying to impose.
The metaphorical language employed in Sonnet 61 furthers this sense of defeat. Initially, the poet describes a final physical and emotional assault attempted by Astro-phil—"I Stella's eyes assail, invade her ears" (l. 3)—but that is quickly thwarted by Stella: "But this at last is her sweet-breathed defence" (l. 4). Astrophil quickly realizes that he has lost the war. He will no longer delude himself into believing he has a chance, for Stella refuses to see his love as true. Turning from words of war to those of a medical treatment, Astrophil appeals to "Doctor Cupid," (l. 12) intending to make a clean break from this erstwhile love.
See also Astrophil and Stella (overview); Sidney, Sir Philip.
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 63 ("O grammer-rules, O now your vertues show") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 63, one of the lighter sonnets in Astrophil and Stella, is an academically sophisticated and amusing quibble, relying on the reader's understanding of the conventions of Latin grammar as well as those of love. It amounts to a comic paean sung in triumph, only qualified in the last lines. Astrophil has asked Stella for the thing desired "which she ever denies" (l. 6), and she has answered, "No, No" (l. 8). The speaker pounces upon her double negative and asserts that she has, by grammar's rule that a double negative makes a positive, really granted his request.
During the 16th century, a double negative in English only emphasized the negative, although in Latin, two negatives did make a positive statement. Thus, for a contemporary of Sir Philip Sidney's, the sonnet's victory is a sophistry—the speaker pretends to win by rules that do not apply.
Structurally, this is an Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet. In the octave, Astrophil invokes "Grammer" (l. 1), urging a display of the power of the rules (the "vertues"); children read with "awfull" eyes—that is, with eyes filled with awe for the power of grammar—and so may Stella (young Dove) recognize the true meaning her words convey when they are viewed grammatically. The rest of the octave describes Astrophil's humble petition ("with eyes most low") of his powerful desire ("with heart most high," l. 5) and Stella's reaction. Sidney's diction and syntax in line 6 create ambiguity— "She lightning Love, displaying Venus' skies"—and anticipate Astrophil's interpretation of Stella's "No, No" in line 7, even while they literally describe Stella's blush: Venus is the evening star, visible in the rose-hued sunset. Astrophil recognizes that Stella means to emphasize her negative when he says she spoke twice in case with only one "no" she might not be heard (l. 8). The first quatrain in this Italian sonnet is bounded by the repeated "vertues," first Grammer's, then Stella's. As Grammer's rules will demonstrate the truth of Stella's words, so Stella's own integrity ("vertue," l. 4) will make her acknowledge the validity of Astrophil's interpretation, despite her intent to the contrary.
The sestet begins with Astrophil invoking his muse to sing praises and appealing to heaven not to envy him in his triumph. Heaven and Grammer both should, he asserts, recognize and confirm with him that, by repeating her "no," Stella has, by all the rules, said "yes" to his desire, because a double negative equals a positive. The use of anaphora, repeating "Grammer" with a verb or noun, in the sestet, act like a triumphant dance. When he tells his muse to sing "Io paean," Astrophil alludes to Ovid's Ars Amatoria, quoting a phrase from a passage where that poet expresses his joy that the mistress he has sought has fallen into his hands at last. This reference to a popular and available parallel underscores the nature of Astrophil's triumph: It is both learned and conventional.
The irony of Astrophil's triumph can be seen in the poet's choice of modifier for (the unnamed) Stella: "young Dove" (l. 3) aligns her closely to "children" (l. 2). The poet executes a subtle critique of his speaker's delight in Stella's error of speech, ruefully recognizing her innocence. The sonnet's conclusion deconstructs itself at the hands of its author. Its structure, based on the two invocations and repeated confidence in the power of grammar, provides the strongest interpretive element, and as grammar fails, so does Astrophil.
Sonnet 63 is tightly structured, painstakingly argued, cocky, and full of sophisticated fun at the expense of all love's sincerity and serious understanding. Its place within Astrophil and Stella, between a sonnet in which Stella urges Astrophil to anchor himself to a virtuous course of action, and the First Song, which praises Stella's beauties and virtues, reinforces its confident tone.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 64 ("No more, my deare, no more these counsels trie") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Sonnet 64 is a particularly good example of Sir Philip Sidney's dual purpose of telling the lovers' story and also of expressing English manners and mores. In this poem, Astrophil presents his case to Stella through the employment of a variety of images, all of which are intended to demonstrate his willingness to humble himself in order to retain her affections. He begins conventionally enough, asking her to desist in her constant refusal: "No more, my dear, no more these counsels trie; / o give my passions leave to run their race" (ll. 1-2). Then, in a cascading series of lines, each punctuated by a semicolon, he seems unable to restrain his emotions, begging her to "Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace; / Let folk o'ercharged with brain against me cry; / Let cloud bedim my face, break in my eye" (ll. 3-6), finishing the six-line outburst with the emphatic plea "But do not will me from my love to fly!" (l. 8). Directly following this impassioned request, Astrophil seems to gain control of himself and turns to a more rational approach, claiming simple humanity—"I do not envy Aristotle's wit, / Nor do aspire to Caesar's bleeding fame; / Nor aught do care though some above me sit" (ll. 9-11)— before giving rein to his hurt feelings by petulantly deeming Stella the possessor of a "cruel heart" (l. 13) and stating that "Thou art my Wit, and thou my Virtue art" (l. 14).
This poem is deceptively simple. Written in perfect iambic pentameter and in the English sonnet form, Sonnet 64 is comprised of simple-rhyme, end-stopped lines, and it makes liberal use of repetition, alliteration, and personification. Because of this highly conventional use of poetic techniques, the poem appears to be a straightforward appeal from scorned lover to his beloved. In actuality, this sonnet pushes the genre to its limits in terms of structure and subject matter.
The organization of Astrophil's argument—from the calm, conventional literary request for mercy and understanding, to the tempestuous outburst in lines 3-8, to the return to rational discourse, and finally to the stingingly vindictive final couplet with its undertones of blame—indicates at once supreme literary control in terms of organization and punctuation, as well as unsuppressed emotion. Within this structure, Sidney employs a rich understanding of the nuances of language; in the same fashion as a master painter, he uses subtle literary brushstrokes to deepen the emotional character of the overall work. The use of the lowercase d in "my dear" (l. 1) underscores the uncertainty with which Astrophil makes his plea: He is not sure of this woman, and so he does not call her "my Dear" in confidence, but rather "my dear" in uncertainty. The choice of the phrase give my passions leave to run their race (l. 2) indicates that he sees a "finish line" to their relationship and gives voice to his emotional state; he has no more control over his passions than he would the entries in a horse race. The mention of Aristotle and Caesar at once heralds a return to rational, ordered thinking.
Further examination of this poem shows that it is a repository for "all things English," encompassing many subjects and cultural aspects that were popular at the time. The idea of Fortune, personified as it is in line 2, was prevalent in 16th-century England, when the world seemed to be changing so quickly with the rise of the merchant class and the ability of individuals to create a fortune through the new commercial atmosphere brought about by trade and industry. The mention of "folk o'ercharged with brain" in line 4 speaks to the power of the educated upper class and the court-influenced admiration of intellect, while Aristotle and Caesar recall the classical tradition. Further, the use of sports terminology such as run its race and course sprinkled throughout this sonnet gives voice to the popularity of pleasure riding in the upper classes, and the recurrent use of the term wit speaks to the rising interest in writing and writers during this time.
Sonnet 64 admirably demonstrates the possibilities of the genre. Through masterful control of language and skillful manipulation of form, Sidney is able to indicate not only the feelings of Astrophil but also the world in which he exists. Astrophil is making his final efforts and calls on everything he has experienced and everything he knows in order to salvage this relationship. Through his openly vulnerable plea, he becomes mortal and sympathetic.
See also Astrophil and Stella (overview).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 69 ("O joy, too high for my low style to show") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) In Sonnet 69, Astrophil basks in Stella's promise of love, singing a triumphant paean. In his delight at Stella's capitulation, he almost ignores her constraint—that she gives her heart only as long as he remains on a virtuous course—dismissing it with the comment that all kings have to make some concessions ("covenants," l. 14) in order to take power.
This poem is deliberately simpler than most of the Astrophil and Stella sonnets; the reader's attention is called immediately to the "low stile" (l. 1), which Astro-phil complains is all he is capable of producing. only the association of virtue with power raises Sonnet 69 above what is otherwise a fairly conventional accumulation of images and tone. Astrophil is being called to responsible living; the love he desires has been promised only contingently upon his course of action. In this poem, it remains unsure whether he sees the "covenant" (l. 14) as something he will need to live up to or renegotiate—or if he will simply try to ignore its restrictions. The conflict between desire and virtue is fundamental to Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella; it underlies many of his occasions for poetry. For the time being, however, Astrophil wants simply to rejoice in being granted the monarchy of Stella's heart. The last three lines foretell of the sonnets to follow, which explore the role of poetry in joy and the constraints virtue places on a lover's desires.
The images Sidney has heaped on the octave of this Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet are images of change, growth, and fluidity. Astrophil speaks of the "Oceans of delight" flowing within him, and asks to "powre" (pour) himself upon the friend who has stood by him through all the miseries leading up to this moment (ll. 4-6). Winter has given way to an amazing spring. All of these images appear to contradict the speaker complaining that he lacks the "high stile" to celebrate appropriately. The entire octave is built of apostrophes: In turn, Astrophil calls upon personified joy, bliss, envy, and his friend, each to contribute appropriately to his delightful mood of conquest.
The sestet turns on images of monarchy: Stella has promised (given "with words") the rule of her heart to Astrophil (l. 10); he can say she is his: "I, I, I may say, that she is mine" (l. 11), and the repetition of the I illustrates his dawning awareness that it is, indeed, he and no other to whom this power over his beloved's heart has been given. The conventional synecdoche of heart for the whole of Stella's love allows Astrophil to become monarch of her through her love for him. only in the last three lines does he acknowledge the stipulation Stella imposes; he rules her heart only "while ver-tuous course I take" (l. 13), a condition he brushes off by shrugging "No kings be crown'd, but they some covenants make" (l. 14). For this sonnet, Astrophil is more impressed with the power over her heart Stella has given him than with the fact of love.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
Astrophil and Stella: Sonnet 71 ("Who will in fairest book of Nature know") Sir Philip Sidney (ca. 1582) Using a variation of the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet, the rhyme scheme in Sonnet 71 follows an octave and sestet pattern of abbaabba, cdcdee. However, the sense of the poem is closer to the
English sonnet form of three quatrains and a couplet, with a significant variation that creates conflict between the rhyme scheme and the syntax of the poem: The final line of the third quatrain works with the closing couplet to provide the resolution of the situation set up in the initial 11 lines.
The speaker begins by stating to a general audience that anyone who wants to know how Virtue and beauty can coexist in Nature should turn to Stella, whose "fair lines . . . true goodness show" (l. 4). These "lines" can refer either to the lines (as in a drawing) that create the image that is Stella, or to the lines of text in the book of Nature that is Stella, making her a poem in that book that provides instruction through delight. In the lines that are Stella, the reader will find vices overthrown by sweet reason instead of "rude force" (l. 6), when the light of reason from the sun shining in her eyes scares away the owls that are emblematic of various vices. The sestet then turns the speaker's attention to Stella herself, who, "not content to be Perfection's heir" (l. 9), tries to push all who admire her good qualities toward manifesting those qualities themselves. The speaker concludes by acknowledging that Stella's beauty encourages his heart to love her, her virtue keeps the focus on proper acknowledgement of that love, and his Desire cries out for more in their relationship. The sestet introduces Platonic concepts of perfection (which include nonsexual love), but the final line undercuts these as amorous passion searches its "food" (l. 14)— the beloved's love. The speaker is thereby distracted by Desire and cannot enjoy reading Virtue in the book that is Stella. In this way, Astrophil uses what is referred to as moral sophistry, a misleadingly sound argument, to present his true desire. Reason and logic do not allow him to extinguish his desire for this woman, which represents the poet's departure from the Petrarchan convention of a chaste and an ideal love.
See also Astrophil and Stella (OVERVIEW).
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