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Featured Poem: from Astrophel and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney

Written by Chris Routledge, 19th January 2009

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was a prominent figure of the Renaissance period, gaining fame not only from his poetry but from his position as a soldier and courtier. The poem below is taken from the sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, a title which derives from two Greek words: 'aster', meaning star, 'phil', meaning lover, and the Latin word 'stella' meaning star. Astrophel is the ‘Star-Lover' of the poem, Stella his ‘Star'. Many choose to read this poem in an auto-biographical way, and believe Sidney himself to be the character of Astrophel, pining for Penelope Deveraux (or Stella), later Penelope Rich, whom he loved. Love stories aside, this poem also deals with the act of writing itself, and the struggle for inspiration. As we see in this verse, Sidney's ‘Muse' volunteers the advice from which the poem is able to begin: ‘look in thy heart and write'.

Taken from: Astrophel and Stella

Canto 1

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the 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,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers 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.'

Posted by Claire Speer

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