Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. Astrophel and Stella So, we'll get to the Defense of Poesy in a second, but besides that, Sidney contributed at least one other important work to the history of literature, and this is the poem called Astrophel and Stella. And first, truly, to all them that, professing learning, inveigh against poetry, may justly be objected that they go very near to ungratefulness, to seek to deface that which, in the noblest nations and languages that are known, hath been the first light-giver to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges. But let this be a sufficient, though short note, that we miss the right use of the material point of poesy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. The excellent Severus miserably murdered? It might be said that those poets mimicked Virgil's hexameters and David's psalms, but the real challenge in English literature came in its urge to create some new art forms.
Thus doing, your soul shall be placed with Dantes Beatrice or Virgils Anchises. That same year Penelope Devereux was married, apparently against her will, to Lord Rich. By example this will be best expressed. So you can thank Sir Philip Sydney for all of that. History is limited by concrete events, whereas poetry is not. He meant it not by poetry, which, not content with earthly plagues, deviseth new punishments in hell for tyrants; nor yet by philosophy, which teacheth occidendos esse; 18 but, no doubt, by skill in history, for that indeed can afford you Cypselus, Periander, Phalaris, Dionysius, and I know not how many more of the same kennel, that speed well enough in their abominable injustice or usurpation. The philosopher therefore and the historian are they which would win the goal, the one by precept, the other by example; but both not having both, do both halt.
We delight to hear the happiness of our friends and country, at which he were worthy to be laughed at that would laugh. Poetry is simply a medium. The French, of the other side, hath both the male, as bon: son, and the female, as plaise: taise; but the sdrucciola he hath not. In his essay, Sidney integrates a number of classical and Italian precepts on fiction. This, according to the inclination of man, bred many-formed impressions. Nay, truly, though I yield that poesy may not only be abused, but that being abused, by the reason of his sweet charming force, it can do more hurt than any other army of words, yet shall it be so far from concluding that the abuse should give reproach to the abused, that contrariwise it is a good reason, that whatsoever, being abused, doth most harm, being rightly used—and upon the right use each thing receiveth his title—doth most good. Usque adeone mori miserum est? His experiments with were no less notable; they served to free the English sonnet from the strict rhyming requirements of the Italian form.
Which I speak to show that it is not riming and versing that maketh a poetno more than a long gown maketh an advocate, who, though he pleaded in armor, should be an advocate and no soldierbut it is that feigning notable images of virtues, vices, or what else, with that delightful teaching, which must be the right describing note to know a poet by. Which reason of his, as all his, is most full of reason. But the poet is the food for the tenderest stomachs; the poet is indeed the right popular philosopher. Sidney's defense of poetry is brilliantly presented and justified with many examples take backup his argument, all this while using a very rich and extensive vocabulary that shows how much more the English languages has to offer. But who should do thus, I confess, should requite the objections made against poets with like cavillations against philosophers; as likewise one should do that should bid one read Phædrus or Symposium in Plato, or the Discourse of Love in Plutarch, and see whether any poet do authorize abominable filthiness, as they do. Plutarch teaches the use to be gathered of them; and how, if they should not be read? The latter likewise with his rime striketh a certain music to the ear; and, in fine, since it doth delight, though by another way, it obtaineth the same purpose; there being in either, sweetness, and wanting in neither, majesty.
First, truly, a man might maliciously object that Plato, being a philosopher, was a natural enemy of poets. Gosson offers what is in essence an attack on imaginative literature Griffiths 5. And do they not know that a tragedy is tied to the laws of poesy, and not of history; not bound to follow the story, but having liberty either to feign a quite new matter, or to frame the history to the most tragical conveniency? And we, having noted the grace of those words, hale them in sometime to a familiar epistle, when it were too much choler to be choleric. And the metaphysic, though it be in the second and abstract notions, and therefore be counted supernatural, yet doth he, indeed, build upon the depth of nature. Let it suffice that it is a fit soil for praise to dwell upon; and what dispraise may set upon it, is either easily overcome, or transformed into just commendation. A modern monument in the crypt lists his among the important graves lost.
But these arguments will by few be understood, and by fewer granted; thus much I hope will be given me, that the Greeks with some probability of reason gave him the name above all names of learning. Of such mind were certain Goths, of whom it is written that, having in the spoil of a famous city taken a fair library, one hangman—belike fit to execute the fruits of their wits—who had murdered a great number of bodies, would have set fire in it. And, of the contrary part, if evil men come to the stage, they ever go out—as the tragedy writer answered to one that misliked the show of such persons—so manacled as they little animate folks to follow them. Now wherein we want desert were a thank-worthy labor to express; but if I knew, I should have mended myself. That imitation whereof poetry is, hath the most conveniency to nature of all other; insomuch that, as Aristotle saith, those things which in themselves are horrible, as cruel battles, unnatural monsters, are made in poetical imitation delightful. By and by we hear news of shipwreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if we accept it not for a rock.
Both the other Scipio brothers, who had by their virtues no less surnames than of Asia and Afric, so loved him that they caused his body to be buried in their sepulcher. But let those things alone, and go to manfor whom as the other things are, so it seemeth in him her uttermost cunning is employedand know whether she have brought forth so true a lover as Theagenes; so constant a friend as Pylades; so valiant a man as Orlando; so right a prince as Xenophons Cyrus; so excellent a man every way as Virgils Æneas? To the second, therefore, that they should be the principal liars, I answer paradoxically, but truly, I think truly, that of all writers under the sun the poet is the least liar; and though he would, as a poet can scarcely be a liar. Our tragedies and comedies not without cause cried out against, observing rules neither of honest civility nor of skilful poetry, excepting Gorboduc,again I say of those that I have seen. In this kind, though in a full wrong divinity, were Orpheus, Amphion, Homer in his Hymns, and many other, both Greeks and Romans. Thirdly, that it is the nurse of abuse, infecting us with many pestilent desires, with a sirens sweetness drawing the mind to the serpents tail of sinful fancies,and herein especially comedies give the largest field to ear, as Chaucer saith; how, both in other nations and in ours, before poets did soften us, we were full of courage, given to martial exercises, the pillars of manlike liberty, and not lulled asleep in shady idleness with poets pastimes.
For all standeth upon dialogues; wherein he feigneth many honest burgesses of Athens to speak of such matters that, if they had been set on the rack, they would never have confessed them; besides his poetical describing the circumstances of their meetings, as the well-ordering of a banquet, the delicacy of a walk, with interlacing mere tales, as Gyges Ring and others, which who knoweth not to be flowers of poetry did never walk into Apollos garden. Thus doing, though you be libertino patre natus, 55 you shall suddenly grow Herculea proles, 56 Si quid mea carmina possunt. But if he know an example only informs a conjectured likelihood, and so go by reason, the poet doth so far exceed him as he is to frame his example to that which is most reasonable, be it in warlike, politic, or private matters; where the historian in his bare was hath many times that which we call fortune to overrule the best wisdom. For, indeed, after the philosophers had picked out of the sweet mysteries of poetry the right discerning true points of knowledge, they forthwith, putting it in method, and making a schoolart of that which the poets did only teach by a divine delightfulness, beginning to spurn at their guides, like ungrateful prentices were not content to set up shops for themselves, but sought by all means to discredit their masters; which by the force of delight being barred them, the less they could overthrow them the more they hated them. The chief, both in antiquity and excellency, were they that did imitate the inconceivable excellencies of God. But since I have run so long a career in this matter, methinks, before I give my pen a full stop, it shall be but a little more lost time to inquire why England, the mother of excellent minds, should be grown so hard a stepmother to poets; who certainly in wit ought to pass all others, since all only proceeds from their wit, being indeed makers of themselves, not takers of others. Now in his parts, kinds, or species, as you list to term them, it is to be noted that some poesies have coupled together two or three kinds,—as tragical and comical, whereupon is risen the tragi-comical; some, in the like manner, have mingled prose and verse, as Sannazzaro and Boethius; some have mingled matters heroical and pastoral; but that comes all to one in this question, for, if severed they be good, the conjunction cannot be hurtful.