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Short poem

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Astrophel and Stella I

              1Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
              2That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,--
              3Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
              4Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,--
              5I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;
              6Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
              7Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
              8Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn'd brain.
              9But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay;
            10Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows;
            11And others' feet still seem'd but strangers in my way.
            12Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,
            13Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
            14"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."


1] A sequence of songs and sonnets, three times printed in quarto in 1591, and revised and rearranged from a better text by Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke, in the folio edition of Sidney's Arcadia and other works, 1598 (on which our text is based). The best modern editions are those by A. W. Pollard (1888) and M. Wilson (1931). Astrophel, meaning star-lover, is the poet, and Stella, or star, represents Penelope Devereux. In 1576 there was talk of a marriage between Sidney and Penelope, daughter of the lately deceased Earl of Essex. But though the proposed marriage had been urged by her father, her guardians allowed it to lapse, and Sidney's parents had other projects for him. In 1581 a marriage with Lord Rich, a man very much her senior, was forced upon Lady Penelope by her guardians. It resulted in continual discord. It seems probable that Sidney composed Astrophel and Stella before his own marriage to Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, in September 1583. The marriage was probably a happy one, and there is no indication that Sidney's wife took objection to the Sonnets.

6] Inventio, consulting lists of acceptable figures of speech, as recommended by classical rhetoric manualsas an alternative for creating something new.

11] feet: a quibble on "metrical feet."

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Sir Philip Sidney, Sir P. S. his Astrophel and Stella ([J. Charlewood] for T. Newman, 1591). STC 22536. Facs. edn.: Menston: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 2342 A7 1591A ROBA.
First publication date: 1591
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger
RP edition: 3RP 1:118.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/11

Composition date: 1580 - 1582
Form: sonnet
Rhyme: abab abab cdc dee

Other poems by Sir Philip Sidney