old service, and marks yet remaining in her face taken in the same,
meriteth her meat. When I went to Newhaven I left her a full fair
lady, in mine eye at least the fairest; and when I returned I found
her as foul a lady as the small-pox could make her, which she did
take by continual attendance of her Majesty's most precious person
(sick of the same disease), the scars of which, to her resolute dis-
comfort, ever since have done and doth remain in her face, so as she
liveth solitarily, sicut mcticorax in domialio suo, more to my charge
104 SIR rillLIP SIDNEY. [CHAP.
had boarded together, as we did before that evil accident
The epistle ends with a general review of Sir Henry's
uniary situation, by which it appears that the Sidney
had been very considerably impoverished during his
lire of it.
"The rest of my life is with an over-long precedent discourse
I to you. But this to your little comfort I cannot omit,
that wlim-as my father hud but one son, and he of no great proof,
being <f twenty- four years of age at his death, and I having three
-: one of t-xc'-llent good proof, the second of great good proof,
and tin- third not to lie despaired of, but very well to be liked; if I
to-morrow next I should leave them worse than my father left
by i"JO,000; and I am now fifty-four years of age, toothless and
trembling, being 5000 in debt, yea, and 30,000 worse than I was
at the death of my most dear king and master, King Edward VI.
11 I have not of the crown of England of my own getting, so much
. .nnd as I can cover with my foot. All my fees amount not to 100
marks a year. I never had since the queen's reign any extraordi-
v ;iid by license, forfeit, or otherwise. And yet for all that was
done, and somewhat more than here is written, I cannot obtain to
have in fee-farm 100 a year, already in my own possession, paying
And now, dear sir and brother, an end of this tragical discourse,
- for you to read, but more tedious it would have been if it
had come written with my own hand, as first it was. Tragical I
may well term it; for that it began with the joyful love and great
liking with likelihood of matrimonial match between our most dear
children (whom God bless), and endeth with declaration
nv unfortunate and hard estate.
: Lord blc.-s you with long life and happiness. I pray you,
nmriid in,- in OM heartily to my good lady, cousin, and sister,
if<', and bless and kiss our sweet daughter. And if you will
>w a blessing upon the young knight, Sir Philip."
- nut much to say of Philip's bride. He and she
tin r as man and wife barely three years. Nothing
v.J LIFE AT COURT AGAIN, AND MARRIAGE. 105
remains to prove that she was cither of assi^unce to him
or the contrary. After his death she contracted a secret
marriage with Robert Devercux, the Earl of Essex ; and
when she lost this second husband on the scaffold, she
adopted the Catholic religion and became the wife of
Lord Clauricarde. In this series of events I can see noth-
ing to her discredit, considering; the manners of that cen-
tury. Her daughter by Philip, it is known, made a brill-
iant marriage with the Earl of Rutland. Her own repeated
nuptials may be taken to prove her personal attractiveness.
Sir Philip Sidney, who must have been intimately acquainted
with her character, chose her for his wife while his passion
for Penelope Devereux had scarcely cooled ; and he did so
without the inducements which wealth or brilliant fortunes
mio;ht have offered.
" ASTROPHEL AND STELLA."
'IONG Sidney's miscellaneous poems there is a lyric, which
has been supposed, not without reason, I think, to express
his feelings upon the event of Lady Penelope Devereux's
marriage to Lord Rich.
" Ring out your bells, let mourning shows be spread :
For L.UVC is dead :
All lu\v is dead, infected
With plague of deep disdain:
Worth, as naught worth, rejected,
And faith fair scorn doth gain.
From so ungrateful fancy,
a such a female frenzy,
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us !
' Weep, neighbours, weep; do you not hear it said
Th.r I. is ead?
His death-bed, peacock's folly;
11> winding-sheet i> shame;
His will, fal- - fining holy;
Fn.in BO ungrateful fancy,
11 Mich ;i female frenzy,
u that use men thus,
1, deliver us !
. vi.] "ASTROPIIEL AND STELLA." 107
" Alas ! I lie : rage hath this error bred ;
Love is not dead ;
Love is not dead, but sleepetft
In her unmatched mind,
Where she his counsel keepeth
Till due deserts she find.
Therefore from so vile fancy,
To call such wit a frenzy,
Who Love can temper thus,
Good Lord, deliver us !"
These stanzas sufficiently set forth the leading passion
of Astrophel and Stella. That series of poems celebrates
Sir Philip Sidney's love for Lady Rich after her marriage,
his discovery that this love was returned, and the curb
which her virtue set upon his too impetuous desire. Be-
fore the publication of Shakespeare's sonnets, these were
undoubtedly the finest love poems in our language ; and
though exception may be taken to the fact that they were
written for a married woman, their purity of tone and
philosophical elevation of thought separate them from the
vulo-ar herd of amatorious verses.
I have committed myself to the opinion that Astrophel
and Stella was composed, if not wholly, yet in by far the
greater part, after Lady Rich's marriage. This opinion be-
ins; contrary to the judgment of excellent critics, and op-
posed to the wishes of Sidney's admirers, I feel bound to
state my reasons. In the first place, then, the poems would
have no meaning if they were written for a maiden. When
a friend, quite early in the series, objects to Sidney that
Doth plunge my well-formed soul even in the mire
Of sinful thoughts which do in ruin end,"
what significance could these words have if Stella were still
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY, [CHAP.
f lv , Stella, throughout two-thirds of the series (after No.
jxxiii.)> makes ii ..ncealment of her love for Astrophel ;
;m ,l be insistently repels his ardent wooing. Why
uld she have done so, if she was at liberty to obey her
father's death-bed wish and marry him? It may here be
objr.'t.' 1 that the reasons for the breaking off of her in-
formal engagement to Sidney are not known; both he and
-he were po>sihly conscious that the marriage could not
tak- pl.-ie,-. To this I answer that a wife's refusal of a
rer'a advances differs from a maiden's; and Stella's re-
fusal in the poems is clearly, to my mind at least, that of a
married woman. Sidney, moreover, does not hint at un-
kind fate or true love hindered in its course by insurmount-
able obstacles. He has, on the other hand, plenty to say
about the unworthy husband, Stella's ignoble bondage, and
L'-rd Kieh'> jealousy.
P.iit, it lias been urged, we are not sure that w r e possess
the sonnets and songs of Astrophel and Stella in their
right order. May we not conjecture that they were either
purpo-elv or unintelligcntly shuffled by the publisher, who
surreptitiously obtained copies of the loose sheets? And
a-aiu, will not close inspection of the text reveal local and
temporal allusions, by means of which we shall be able to
:i p_:n some of the more compromising poems to dates be-
fore I',-iie!,.p</> marriage?
There an- two points here for consideration, which I
will endeavour to treat separately. The first edition of
i-njilti-f and Sfclla was printed in 1591 by Thomas New-
man. A\ here tliis man obtained his manuscript does not
appear. Hut in the dedication he savs : " It was my fortune
: many days since to light upon the famous device of
I'/n-l and Sfclla, which carrying the general com-
mendation of all men of judgment, and being reported to
vi.] "ASTROPHEL AND STELLA." 109
be one of the rarest things that ever any Eno-Hshman set
O J O
abroach, I have thought good to publish it." Further on
he adds: "For my part I have been very careful in the
printing of it, and whereas, being spread abroad in written
copies, it had gathered much corruption by ill-writers ; I
have used their help and advice in correcting and restoring
it to his first dignity that I know were of skill and expe-
rience in those matters." If these sentences have any
meaning, it is that Astrophel and Stella circulated widely
in manuscript, as a collected whole, and not in scattered
sheets, before it fell into the hands of Newman. It was
already known to the world as a "famous device," a " rare
thing ;" and throughout the dedication it is spoken of as a
single piece. "What strengthens this argument is that the
Countess of Pembroke, in her lifetime, permitted Astrophel
and Stella to be reprinted, together with her own corrected
version of the Arcadia, without making any alteration in
If we examine the poems with minute attention we shall,
I think, be led to the conclusion that they have not been
shuffled, but that we possess them in the order in which
Sidney wrote them. To begin with, the first nine sonnets
form a kind of exordium. They set forth the object for
which the whole series was composed, they celebrate Stella's
mental and personal charms in general, they characterise
Sidney's style and source of inspiration, and criticise the
affectations of his contemporaries. In the second place,
we find that many of the sonnets are written in sequence.
I will cite, for example, Nos. 31-34, Nos. 38-40, Nos. 69-
72, Nos. 87-92, Nos. 93-100. Had the order been either
unintelligently or intentionally confused, it is not probable
that these sequences would have survived entire. And upon
this point I may notice that the interspersed lyrics occur in
n ,, SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. [CHAP.
their pr"p-r places, that is to say, in close connection with
ti,. -i-matter of accompanying sonnets. It may third-
] v served that Axtr<.>i>1u-l mid Stella, as we have it, ex-
liil.it- a natural rhythm and development of sentiment, from
admiration and chagrin, through expectant passion, folio wed
l.v hope sustained at a high pitch of enthusiasm, down to
ntual diseoiira-vment and resignation. As Thomas Nash
i in his preface to the first edition: "The chief actor
here is Melpomene, whose dusky robes dipped in the ink of
ra as vt srem to drop when I see them near. The ar-
iifiit cruel chastity, the prologue hope, the epilogue de-
>pair." That the series ends abruptly, as though its author
ha<l abandoned it from weariness, should also be noticed.
This is natural in the case of lyrics, which were clearly the
outpouring of the poet's inmost feelings. When he had
once determined to cast off the yoke of a passion which
could not but have been injurious to his better self, Astro-
pln-1 stopped singing. He was not rounding off a subject
arti>tically contemplated from outside. There was no en-
\"_v to be written when once the aliment of love had been
\\ ith iv-ard to the second question I have raised, name-
ly. \\hrthcr close inspection will not enable us to fix dates
f<>r the composition of Astropkel and Stella, and thus to
[range the order of its pieces, I must say that very few
"f tin.- poems seem to me to offer any solid ground for crit-
this kind. Sonnets 24, 35, and 37 clearly allude
t" St.-lla's married name. Sonnet 41, the famous "Having
tin- day my horse, my hand, my lance," may refer to Sid-
- :i-ault upon the Castle of Perfect Beauty; but since
d in that mimic siege, this seems doubtful.
m-ntioii of " that sweet enemy France " might lead us
v\-Il to assign it to the period of Anjou's visit In
vi.] "ASTROPIIEL AND STELLA." Ill
either case, the date would be after Stella's betrothal to
Lord Rich. Sonnet 30, " Whether the Turkish new moon
minded be," points to political events in Kurope which were
taking place after the beginning of 1581, and consequent-
ly about the period of Penelope's marriage. These five
sonnets fall within the first forty-one of a series which
numbers one hundred and eight. After them I can dis-
cover nothing but allusions to facts of private life, Astro-
phel's absence from the Court, Stella's temporary illness, a
stolen kiss, a lover's quarrel.
In conclusion, I would fain point out that any one who
may have composed a series of poems upon a single theme,
extending over a period of many months, w 7 ill be aware how
impertinent it is for an outsider to debate their order.
Nothing can be more certain, in such species of composi-
tion, than that thoughts once suggested will be taken up for
more elaborate handling on a future occasion. Thus the
contention between love and virtue, which occurs early in
Astrophel and Stella, is developed at length towards its
close. The Platonic conception of beauty is suggested near
the commencement, and is worked out in a later sequence.
Sometimes a motive from external life supplies the poet
with a single lyric, which seems to interrupt the lover's
monologue. Sometimes he strikes upon a vein so fruitful
that it yields a succession of linked sonnets and intercalated
I have attempted to explain why I regard Astrophel and
Stella as a sino-le whole, the arrangement of which does not
o 7 ~
materially differ from that intended by its author. I have
also expressed my belief that it was written after Penelope
Devereux became Lady Rich. This justifies me in saying,
as I did upon a former page, that the exact date of her
marriage seems to me no matter of vital importance in Sir
11-j SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. [CHAP.
riiilip Sidney's biography. My tlieory of the love which
it portravs, is tliat this was latent up to the time of her be-
trothal, and that the consciousness of the irrevocable at that
moment made it break into the kind of regretful passion
which is peculiarly suited for poetic treatment. Stella may
have wasted some of Philip's time; but it is clear that she
behaved honestly, and to her lover helpfully, by the firm
but gentle refusal of his overtures. Throughout these po-
nis. though I recognise their very genuine emotion, I can-
not help discerning the note of what may be described as
:ical exaggeration. In other words, I do not believe
that Sidney would in act have really gone so far as he pro-
to desire. On paper it was easy to demand more
than seriously, in hot or cold blood, he would have attempt-
> \. To this artistic exaltation of a real feeling the chosen
form of composition both traditionally and artistically lent
If. Finally, when all these points have been duly con-
sidered, we must not forget that society at that epoch was
lenient, if not lax, in matters of the passions. Stella's posi-
tion at Court, while she was the acknowledged mistress of
Sir ( 'harles Blount, suffices to prove this; nor have we any
reason to suppose that Philip was, in this respect, more " a
-pint without blot " than his contemporaries. Some of his
death-bed meditations indicate sincere repentance for past
follies; but that his liaison with Lady Rich involved noth-
ing worse than a young man's infatuation, appears from the
pervading tone of Astrophel and Stella. A motto might
thoseo for it from the CGth sonnet:
" I cannot brag of word, much less of deed."
Tin: critical cobwebs which beset the personal romance
>v/vy;//r/ <i ,nl >'/('// have now been cleared away. Read-
p iges know how I for one interpret its prob-
Ti.J "ASTROPHEL AND STELLA." 113
lems. Whatever opinion they may form upon a topic
which has exercised many ingenious minds, we are able at
length to approach the work of art, and to study its beau-
ties together. Regarding one point, I would fain submit a
word of preliminary warning. However artificial ;md allu-
sive may appear the style of these love poems, let us pre-
pare ourselves to find real feeling and substantial thought
expressed in them. It was not a mere rhetorical embroid-
ery of phrases which moved downright Ben Jonson to ask :
"Hath not great Sidney Stella set
Where never star shone brighter yet?"
It was no flimsy string of pearled conceits which drew from
Richard Crashaw in his most exalted moment that allusion
" Sydnaean showers
Of sweet discourse, whose powers
Can crown old Winter's head with flowers."
The elder poets, into whose ken Astrophel and Stella swam
like a thing of unimagined and unapprehended beauty, had
no doubt of its sincerity. The quaintness of its tropes,
and the condensation of its symbolism were proofs to them
of passion stirring the deep soul of a finely-gifted, highly-
educated man. They read it as we read In Memoriam, ac-
knowledging some obscure passages, recognising some awk-
wardness of incoherent utterance, but taking; these on trust
as evidences of the poet's heart too charged with stuff for
ordinary methods of expression. What did Shakespeare
make Achilles sav \
" My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirred,
And I myself see not the bottom of it."
Charles Lamb puts this point well. " The images which
1 1 i SIR rillLIP SIDNEY. [CHAP.
Jic In-fore <nir feet (though by some accounted the only
J) are least n;itural for the high Sydnaean love to ex-
They may serve for the love of Tibnllns,
the dear author of the Schoolmistress; for passions that
j. and whine in elegies and pastoral ballads. I am sure
Milton (and Lamb might have added Shakespeare) never
loved at this rate."
The forms adopted by Sidney in his Astrophel and Stella
ire various; but none of them correspond exactly
to tin- Shakespearian type four separate quatrains clinched
with a final couplet, lie adheres more closely to Italian
models, especially in his handling of the octave; although
we lind only two specimens (Nos. 29, 94) of the true Pe-
trarchan species in the treatment of the sextet. Sidney
preferred to close the stanza with a couplet. The best and
most characteristic of his compositions are built in this
way : two quatrains upon a pair of rhymes, arranged as a,
b, ^ a, a, 6, b, a ; followed by a quatrain c. d, c, d, and a coup-
let The pauses frequently occur at the end of the
eighth line, and again at the end of the eleventh, so that
the closing couplet is not abruptly detached from the struct-
ure of the sextet. It will be observed from the quotations
which follow that this, which I indicate as the most dis-
tinctively Sidneyan type, is by no means invariable. To
analyse each of the many schemes under which his sonnets
be arranged, would be unprofitable in a book which
doe> not pretend to deal technically with this form of stan-
za. Vet I may add that he often employs a type of the
. which is commoner in French than in Italian or
KnglMi poetry, with this rhyming order: c,c,d,e,e,d. I
have counted twenty of this sort.
The HIM sonnet, which is composed in lines of twelve
3 forth the argument:
vi.] "ASTROPIIEL AND STELLA." 115
" Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to sho\v,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain;
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay ;
Invention, nature's child, fled step-dame study's blows;
Another's feet still seemed but stranger's in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite
' Fool,' said my Muse to me, ' look in thy heart and write !' '
This means that Sidney's love was sincere ; but that he
first sought expression for it in phrases studied from fa-
mous models. He wished to please his lady, and to move
her pity. His efforts proved ineffectual, until the Muse
came and said: "Look in thy heart and write." Like
Dante, Sidney then declared himself to be one :
" Che quando,
Amore spira, noto ; ed a quel modo
Ch'ei detta dentro, vo significaudo."
Purg. 24. 52.
" Love only reading unto me this art."
Astrophel and Stella, sonnet 28.
The 3d, 6th, 15th, and 28th sonnets return to the same
point. He takes poets to task, who
' With strange similes enrich each line,
Of herbs or beasts which Ind or Afric hold."
He describes how
" Some one his song in Jove, and Jove's strange tales attires,
Bordered with bulls and swans, powdered with golden rain ;
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. (CHAP.
Another, humbler wit, to shepherd's pipe retires,
liiJhi"- i-oval blood full oft in rural vein."
Vr.u that do search for every purling spring
Which from the ribs of old Parnassus flows;
And every ilower, not sweet perhaps, which grows
\.-ar thereabouts, into your poesy wring ;
Ye that do dictionary's method bring
Into your rhymes, running in rattling rows ;
You that poor Petrarch's long deceased woes,
With new-born sighs, and denizened wits do sing."
!! i^irds no less against
" You that with allegory's curious frame
Of other's children changelings use to make."
All these are on the wrono; tack. Stella is sufficient source
inspiration for Lira, for them, for every singer. This
theoretical position does not, however, prevent him from
falling into a very morass of conceits, of which we have an
early example in the 9th sonnet. Marino could scarcely
have executed variations more elaborate upon the single
" (^iieen Virtue's Court, which some call Stella's face."
I may hen- state that I mean to omit those passages in As-
tr< ,t<1 Stdla which strike me as merely artificial. I
want, if possible, to introduce readers to what is perennially
1 humanly valuable in the poetical record of Sir Philip
S romance. More than enough will remain of emo-
ion >imply expressed, of deep thought pithily presented, to
Qger chapter than I can dedicate to his book of the
vi.] "ASTEOPIIEL AND STELLA." 117
The 2d sonnet describes the growth of Sidney's passion.
Love, he says, neither smote him at first sight, nor aimed an
upward shaft to pierce his heart on the descent. 1 Long
familiarity made him appreciate Stella. Liking deepened
into love. Yet at the first he neglected to make his love
known. Now, too late, he finds himself hopelessly enslaved
when the love for a married woman can yield only torment.
" Xot at first sight, nor with a dribbed shot,
Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe will bleed ;
But known worth did in mine of time proceed,
Till by degrees it had full conquest got.
I saw and liked ; I liked, but loved not ;
I loved, but straight did not what Love decreed :
At length to Love's decrees I forced agreed,
Yet with repining at so partial lot.
Xow even that footstep of lost liberty
Is gone ; and now, like slave-born Muscovite,
I call it praise to suffer tyranny ;
And now ^mploy the remnant of my wit
To make myself believe that all is well,
While with a feeling skill I paint my hell."
In the 4th and 5th sonnets two themes are sno-o-ested,
which, later on, receive fuller development. The first is the
contention between love and virtue ; the second is the Pla-
tonic conception of beauty as a visible image of virtue.
The latter of these motives is thus tersely set forth in son-
net 25 :
" The wisest scholar of the wight most wise
By Phoebus' doom, with sugared sentence says
1 This, at least, is how I suppose we ought to interpret the word
dribbed. In Elizabethan English this seems to have been technically
equivalent to what in archery is now called elevating as opposed to
shooting point blank.
118 SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. [CHAP.
That virtue, if it once met with our eyes,
uige flames of love it in our souls would raise."
., at the commencement of the series, Sidney rather
plays with the idea than dwells upon it:
True, that true beauty virtue is indeed,
Whereof this beauty can be but a shade,
Which elements with mortal mixture breed.
True, that on earth we are but pilgrims made,
And should in soul up to our country move ;
True, and yet true that I must Stella love." (No. 5.)
In the 10th sonnet he opens a dispute with Reason, which
also is continued at intervals throughout the series :
" I rather wished thee climb the Muses' hill,
< >r reach the fruit of Nature's choicest tree,
Or seek heaven's course or heaven's inside to see ;
Why should'st thou toil our thorny soil to till?
Leave sense, and those which sense's objects be ;
Deal thou with powers of thoughts, leave Love to Will."