History of Literature

Sir Philip Sidney



Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney

born November 30, 1554, Penshurst, Kent, England
died October 17, 1586, Arnhem, Netherlands

Elizabethan courtier, statesman, soldier, poet, and patron of scholars and poets, considered the ideal gentleman of his day. After Shakespeare’s sonnets, Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella is considered the finest Elizabethan sonnet cycle. His The Defence of Poesie introduced the critical ideas of Renaissance theorists to England.

Philip Sidney was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney and his wife, Lady Mary Dudley, daughter of the duke of Northumberland, and godson of King Philip II of Spain. After Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne, his father was appointed lord president of Wales (and later served three times as lord deputy of Ireland), while his uncle, Robert Dudley, was created earl of Leicester and became the queen’s most trusted adviser. In keeping with his family background, the young Sidney was intended for a career as a statesman and soldier. At age 10 he entered Shrewsbury School, where his classmate was Fulke Greville (later a court official under Elizabeth), who became his lifelong friend and was his early biographer. In February 1568 he began a three-year period of studies at Christ Church, Oxford, afterward traveling in Europe between May 1572 and June 1575, perfecting his knowledge of Latin, French, and Italian. He also gained firsthand knowledge of European politics and became acquainted with many of Europe’s leading statesmen.

His first court appointment came in the spring of 1576, when he succeeded his father as cupbearer to the queen, a ceremonial position. Then in February 1577, when he was only 22, he was sent as ambassador to the German emperor Rudolf II and the elector palatine Louis VI, carrying Queen Elizabeth’s condolences on the deaths of their fathers. But along with this formal task, he also had secret instructions to sound out the German princes on their attitude toward the formation of a Protestant league—the chief political aim being to protect England by associating it with other Protestant states in Europe that would counterbalance the threatening power of Roman Catholic Spain. Sidney apparently brought back enthusiastic reports on the possibilities of forming such a league, but the cautious queen sent other emissaries to check on his reports, and they returned with less-optimistic accounts of the German princes’ reliability as allies. He did not receive another major official appointment until eight years later.

He nevertheless continued to busy himself in the politics and diplomacy of his country. In 1579 he wrote privately to the queen, advising her against a proposal that she enter into a marriage with the duke of Anjou, the Roman Catholic heir to the French throne. Sidney, moreover, was a member of Parliament for Kent in 1581 and 1584–85. He corresponded with foreign statesmen and entertained important visitors—including the French Protestant envoy Philippe de Mornay in 1577, the German Calvinist prince Casimir in 1578, the Portuguese pretender Dom António in 1581, and, later, a number of Scottish lords. Sidney was among the few Englishmen of his time with any interest in the newly discovered Americas, and he supported maritime explorations by the navigator Sir Martin Frobisher. In 1582 Richard Hakluyt, who published accounts of English explorers’ enterprises, dedicated his Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America to him. Sidney later became interested in the project to establish the American colony of Virginia, sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, and he intended to set out himself in an expedition with Sir Francis Drake against the Spaniards. He had wide-ranging intellectual and artistic interests, discussed art with the painter Nicholas Hilliard and chemistry with the scientist John Dee, and was a great patron of scholars and men of letters. More than 40 works by English and European authors were dedicated to him—works of divinity, ancient and modern history, geography, military affairs, law, logic, medicine, and poetry—indicating the breadth of his interests. Among the many poets and prose writers who sought his patronage were Edmund Spenser, Abraham Fraunce, and Thomas Lodge.

Sidney was an excellent horseman and became renowned for his participation in tournaments—elaborate entertainments, half athletic contest and half symbolic spectacle, that were a chief amusement of the court. He hankered after a life of heroic action, but his official activities were largely ceremonial—attending on the queen at court and accompanying her on her progresses about the country. In January 1583 he was knighted, not because of any outstanding accomplishment but in order to give him the qualifications needed to stand in for his friend Prince Casimir, who was to receive the honour of admittance to the Order of the Garter but was unable to attend the ceremony. In September he married Frances, daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s secretary of state, Sir Francis Walsingham. They had one daughter, Elizabeth.

Because the queen would not give him an important post, he had turned to literature as an outlet for his energies. In 1578 he composed a pastoral playlet, The Lady of May, for the queen. By 1580 he had completed a version of his heroic prose romance, the Arcadia. It is typical of his gentlemanly air of assumed nonchalance that he should call it “a trifle, and that triflingly handled,” whereas it is in fact an intricately plotted narrative of 180,000 words.

Early in 1581 his aunt, the countess of Huntington, had brought to court her ward, Penelope Devereux, who later that year married the young Lord Rich. Whether or not Sidney really did fall in love with her, during the summer of 1582 he composed a sonnet sequence, Astrophel and Stella, that recounts a courtier’s passion in delicately fictionalized terms: its first stirrings, his struggles against it, and his final abandonment of his suit to give himself instead to the “great cause” of public service. These sonnets, witty and impassioned, brought Elizabethan poetry at once of age. About the same time, he wrote The Defence of Poesie, an urbane and eloquent plea for the social value of imaginative fiction, which remains the finest work of Elizabethan literary criticism. In 1584 he began a radical revision of his Arcadia, transforming its linear dramatic plot into a many-stranded, interlaced narrative. He left it half finished, but it remains the most important work of prose fiction in English of the 16th century. He also composed other poems and later began a paraphrase of the Psalms. He wrote for his own amusement and for that of his close friends; true to the gentlemanly code of avoiding commercialism, he did not allow his writings to be published in his lifetime.

The incomplete revised version of his Arcadia was not printed until 1590; in 1593 another edition completed the story by adding the last three books of his original version (the complete text of the original version remained in manuscript until 1926). His Astrophel and Stella was printed in 1591 in a corrupt text, his Defence of Poesie in 1595, and a collected edition of his works in 1598, reprinted in 1599 and nine times during the 17th century.

Although in July 1585 he finally received his eagerly awaited public appointment, his writings were to be his most lasting accomplishment. He was appointed, with his uncle, the earl of Warwick, as joint master of the ordnance, an office that administered the military supplies of the kingdom. In November the queen was finally persuaded to assist the struggle of the Dutch against their Spanish masters, sending them a force led by the earl of Leicester. Sidney was made governor of the town of Flushing (Dutch: Vlissingen) and was given command of a company of cavalry. But the following 11 months were spent in ineffective campaigns against the Spaniards, while Sidney was hard put to maintain the morale of his poorly paid troops. He wrote to his father-in-law that, if the queen did not pay her soldiers, she would lose her garrisons but that, for himself, the love of the cause would never make him weary of his resolution, because he thought “a wise and constant man ought never to grieve while he doth play his own part truly, though others be out.”

On September 22, 1586, he volunteered to serve in an action to prevent the Spaniards from sending supplies into the town of Zutphen. The supply train was heavily guarded, and the English were outnumbered; but Sidney charged three times through the enemy lines, and, even though his thigh was shattered by a bullet, he rode his horse from the field. He was carried to Arnhem, where his wound became infected, and he prepared himself religiously for death. In his last hours he confessed:

There came to my remembrance a vanity wherein I had taken delight, whereof I had not rid myself. It was the Lady Rich. But I rid myself of it, and presently my joy and comfort returned.

He was buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on February 16, 1587, with an elaborate funeral of a type usually reserved for great noblemen. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and scholars throughout Europe issued memorial volumes in his honour, while almost every English poet composed verses in his praise. He won this adulation even though he had accomplished no action of consequence; it would be possible to write a history of Elizabethan political and military affairs without so much as mentioning his name. It is not what he did but what he was that made him so widely admired: the embodiment of the Elizabethan ideal of gentlemanly virtue.

William Andrew Ringler, Jr.







Made by Sir Philip Sidney, upon his meeting with his two worthy friends and fellow poets, Sir Edward Dyer and M. Fulke Greville.

Join mates in mirth to me,
Grant pleasure to our meeting;
Let Pan, our good god, see
How grateful is our greeting.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Ye hymns and singing skill
Of god Apollo's giving,
Be pressed our reeds to fill
With sound of music living.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Sweet Orpheus' harp, whose sound
The stedfast mountains moved,
Let there thy skill abound,
To join sweet friends beloved.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

My two and I be met,
A happy blessed trinity,
As three more jointly set
In firmest band of unity.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Welcome my two to me,
The number best beloved,
Within my heart you be
In friendship unremoved.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Give leave your flocks to range,
Let us the while be playing;
Within the elmy grange,
Your flocks will not be straying.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Cause all the mirth you can,
Since I am now come hither,
Who never joy, but when
I am with you together.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Like lovers do their love,
So joy I in you seeing:
Let nothing me remove
From always with you being.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

And as the turtle dove
To mate with whom he liveth,
Such comfort fervent love
Of you to my heart giveth.
Join hearts and hands, so let it be,
Make but one mind in bodies three.

Now joined be our hands,
Let them be ne'er asunder,
But link'd in binding bands
By metamorphosed wonder.
So should our severed bodies three
As one for ever joined be.


Walking in bright Phoebus' blaze,
Where with heat oppressed I was,
I got to a shady wood,
Where green leaves did newly bud;
And of grass was plenty dwelling,
Decked with pied flowers sweetly smelling.

In this wood a man I met,
On lamenting wholly set;
Ruing change of wonted state,
Whence he was transformed late,
Once to shepherds' God retaining,
Now in servile court remaining.

There he wand'ring malecontent,
Up and down perplexed went,
Daring not to tell to me,
Spake unto a senseless tree,
One among the rest electing,
These same words, or this affecting:

"My old mates I grieve to see
Void of me in field to be,
Where we once our lovely sheep
Lovingly like friends did keep;
Oft each other's friendship proving,
Never striving, but in loving.

"But may love abiding be
In poor shepherds' base degree?
It belongs to such alone
To whom art of love is known:
Seely shepherds are not witting
What in art of love is fitting.

"Nay, what need the art to those
To whom we our love disclose?
It is to be used then,
When we do but flatter men:
Friendship true, in heart assured,
Is by Nature's gifts procured.

"Therefore shepherds, wanting skill,
Can Love's duties best fulfil;
Since they know not how to feign,
Nor with love to cloak disdain,
Like the wiser sort, whose learning
Hides their inward will of harming.

"Well was I, while under shade
Oaten reeds me music made,
Striving with my mates in song;
Mixing mirth our songs among.
Greater was the shepherd's treasure
Than this false, fine, courtly pleasure.

"Where how many creatures be,
So many puffed in mind I see;
Like to Juno's birds of pride,
Scarce each other can abide:
Friends like to black swans appearing,
Sooner these than those in hearing.

"Therefore, Pan, if thou may'st be
Made to listen unto me,
Grant, I say, if seely man
May make treaty to god Pan,
That I, without thy denying,
May be still to thee relying.

"Only for my two loves' sake,
In whose love I pleasure take;
Only two do me delight
With their ever-pleasing sight;
Of all men to thee retaining,
Grant me with those two remaining.

"So shall I to thee always
With my reeds sound mighty praise:
And first lamb that shall befall,
Yearly deck thine altar shall,
If it please thee to be reflected,
And I from thee not rejected."

So I left him in that place,
Taking pity on his case;
Learning this among the rest,
That the mean estate is best;
Better filled with contenting,
Void of wishing and repenting.


Ring out your bells, let mourning shows be spread,
For Love is dead:
All Love is dead, infected
With plague of deep disdain:
Worth, as nought worth, rejected,
And faith fair scorn doth gain.
From so ungrateful fancy;
From such a female frenzy;
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Weep, neighbours, weep, do you not hear it said
That Love is dead:
His death-bed, peacock's folly:
His winding-sheet is shame;
His will, false-seeming holy,
His sole executor, blame.
From so ungrateful fancy;
From such a female frenzy;
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Let dirge be sung, and trentals rightly read,
For Love is dead:
Sir Wrong his tomb ordaineth
My mistress' marble heart;
Which epitaph containeth,
"Her eyes were once his dart."
From so ungrateful fancy;
From such a female frenzy;
From them that use men thus,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Alas! I lie: rage hath this error bred;
Love is not dead,
Love is not dead, but sleepeth
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.


Ah, poor Love, why dost thou live,
Thus to see thy service lost;
If she will no comfort give,
Make an end, yield up the ghost!

That she may, at length, approve
That she hardly long believed,
That the heart will die for love
That is not in time relieved.

Oh, that ever I was born
Service so to be refused;
Faithful love to be forborn!
Never love was so abused.

But, sweet Love, be still awhile;
She that hurt thee, Love, may heal thee;
Sweet! I see within her smile
More than reason can reveal thee.

For, though she be rich and fair,
Yet she is both wise and kind,
And, therefore, do thou not despair
But thy faith may fancy find.

Yet, although she be a queen
That may such a snake despise,
Yet, with silence all unseen,
Run, and hide thee in her eyes:

Where if she will let thee die,
Yet at latest gasp of breath,
Say that in a lady's eye
Love both took his life and death.


Philoclea and Pamela sweet,
By chance, in one great house did meet;
And meeting, did so join in heart,
That th' one from th' other could not part:
And who indeed (not made of stones)
Would separate such lovely ones?
The one is beautiful, and fair
As orient pearls and rubies are;
And sweet as, after gentle showers,
The breath is of some thousand flowers:
For due proportion, such an air
Circles the other, and so fair,
That it her brownness beautifies,
And doth enchant the wisest eyes.

Have you not seen, on some great day,
Two goodly horses, white and bay,
Which were so beauteous in their pride,
You knew not which to choose or ride?
Such are these two; you scarce can tell,
Which is the daintier bonny belle;
And they are such, as, by my troth,
I had been sick with love of both,
And might have sadly said, 'Good-night
Discretion and good fortune quite;'
But that young Cupid, my old master,
Presented me a sovereign plaster:
Mopsa! ev'n Mopsa! (precious pet)
Whose lips of marble, teeth of jet,
Are spells and charms of strong defence,
To conjure down concupiscence.

How oft have I been reft of sense,
By gazing on their excellence,
But meeting Mopsa in my way,
And looking on her face of clay,
Been healed, and cured, and made as sound,
As though I ne'er had had a wound?
And when in tables of my heart,
Love wrought such things as bred my smart,
Mopsa would come, with face of clout,
And in an instant wipe them out.
And when their faces made me sick,
Mopsa would come, with face of brick,
A little heated in the fire,
And break the neck of my desire.
Now from their face I turn mine eyes,
But (cruel panthers!) they surprise
Me with their breath, that incense sweet,
Which only for the gods is meet,
And jointly from them doth respire,
Like both the Indies set on fire:

Which so o'ercomes man's ravished sense,
That souls, to follow it, fly hence.
No such-like smell you if you range
To th' Stocks, or Cornhill's square Exchange;
There stood I still as any stock,
Till Mopsa, with her puddle dock,
Her compound or electuary,
Made of old ling and young canary,
Bloat-herring, cheese, and voided physic,
Being somewhat troubled with a phthisic,
Did cough, and fetch a sigh so deep,
As did her very bottom sweep:
Whereby to all she did impart,
How love lay rankling at her heart:
Which, when I smelt, desire was slain,
And they breathed forth perfumes in vain.
Their angel voice surprised me now;
But Mopsa, her Too-whit, Too-whoo,
Descending through her oboe nose,
Did that distemper soon compose.

And, therefore, O thou precious owl,
The wise Minerva's only fowl;
What, at thy shrine, shall I devise
To offer up a sacrifice?
Hang AEsculapius, and Apollo,
And Ovid, with his precious shallow.
Mopsa is love's best medicine,
True water to a lover's wine.
Nay, she's the yellow antidote,
Both bred and born to cut Love's throat:
Be but my second, and stand by,
Mopsa, and I'll them both defy;
And all else of those gallant races,
Who wear infection in their faces;
For thy face (that Medusa's shield!)
Will bring me safe out of the field.


To the tune of the Spanish song, "Si tu senora no ducles de mi."

O fair! O sweet! when I do look on thee,
In whom all joys so well agree,
Heart and soul do sing in me.
This you hear is not my tongue,
Which once said what I conceived;
For it was of use bereaved,
With a cruel answer stung.
No! though tongue to roof be cleaved,
Fearing lest he chastised be,
Heart and soul do sing in me.

O fair! O sweet! when I do look on thee,
In whom all joys so well agree,
Just accord all music makes;
In thee just accord excelleth,
Where each part in such peace dwelleth,
One of other beauty takes.
Since then truth to all minds telleth,
That in thee lives harmony,
Heart and soul do sing in me.

O fair! O sweet! when I do look on thee,
In whom all joys so well agree,
They that heaven have known do say,
That whoso that grace obtaineth,
To see what fair sight there reigneth,
Forced are to sing alway:
So then since that heaven remaineth
In thy face, I plainly see,
Heart and soul do sing in me.

O fair! O sweet! when I do look on thee,
In whom all joys so well agree,
Sweet, think not I am at ease,
For because my chief part singeth;
This song from death's sorrow springeth:
As to swan in last disease:
For no dumbness, nor death, bringeth
Stay to true love's melody:
Heart and soul do sing in me.


From Horace, Book II. Ode X., beginning "Rectius vives, Licini," &c.

You better sure shall live, not evermore
Trying high seas; nor, while sea's rage you flee,
Pressing too much upon ill-harboured shore.

The golden mean who loves, lives safely free
From filth of foreworn house, and quiet lives,
Released from court, where envy needs must be.

The wind most oft the hugest pine tree grieves:
The stately towers come down with greater fall:
The highest hills the bolt of thunder cleaves.

Evil haps do fill with hope, good haps appall
With fear of change, the courage well prepared:
Foul winters, as they come, away they shall.

Though present times, and past, with evils be snared,
They shall not last: with cithern silent Muse,
Apollo wakes, and bow hath sometime spared.

In hard estate, with stout shows, valour use,
The same man still, in whom wisdom prevails;
In too full wind draw in thy swelling sails.


Prometheus, when first from heaven high
He brought down fire, till then on earth not seen;
Fond of delight, a satyr, standing by,
Gave it a kiss, as it like sweet had been.

Feeling forthwith the other burning power,
Wood with the smart, with shouts and shrieking shrill,
He sought his ease in river, field, and bower;
But, for the time, his grief went with him still.

So silly I, with that unwonted sight,
In human shape an angel from above,
Feeding mine eyes, th' impression there did light;
That since I run and rest as pleaseth love:
The difference is, the satyr's lips, my heart,
He for a while, I evermore, have smart.


A satyr once did run away for dread,
With sound of horn which he himself did blow:
Fearing and feared, thus from himself he fled,
Deeming strange evil in that he did not know.

Such causeless fears when coward minds do take,
It makes them fly that which they fain would have;
As this poor beast, who did his rest forsake,
Thinking not why, but how, himself to save.

Ev'n thus might I, for doubts which I conceive
Of mine own words, my own good hap betray;
And thus might I, for fear of may be, leave
The sweet pursuit of my desired prey.
Better like I thy satyr, dearest Dyer,
Who burnt his lips to kiss fair shining fire.


My mistress lowers, and saith I do not love:
I do protest, and seek with service due,
In humble mind, a constant faith to prove;
But for all this, I cannot her remove
From deep vain thought that I may not be true.

If oaths might serve, ev'n by the Stygian lake,
Which poets say the gods themselves do fear,
I never did my vowed word forsake:
For why should I, whom free choice slave doth make,
Else-what in face, than in my fancy bear?

My Muse, therefore, for only thou canst tell,
Tell me the cause of this my causeless woe?
Tell, how ill thought disgraced my doing well?
Tell, how my joys and hopes thus foully fell
To so low ebb that wonted were to flow?

O this it is, the knotted straw is found;
In tender hearts, small things engender hate:
A horse's worth laid waste the Trojan ground;
A three-foot stool in Greece made trumpets sound;
An ass's shade e'er now hath bred debate.

If Greeks themselves were moved with so small cause,
To twist those broils, which hardly would untwine:
Should ladies fair be tied to such hard laws,
As in their moods to take a ling'ring pause?
I would it not, their metal is too fine.

My hand doth not bear witness with my heart,
She saith, because I make no woeful lays,
To paint my living death and endless smart:
And so, for one that felt god Cupid's dart,
She thinks I lead and live too merry days.

Are poets then the only lovers true,
Whose hearts are set on measuring a verse?
Who think themselves well blest, if they renew
Some good old dump that Chaucer's mistress knew;
And use but you for matters to rehearse.

Then, good Apollo, do away thy bow:
Take harp and sing in this our versing time,
And in my brain some sacred humour flow,
That all the earth my woes, sighs, tears may know;
And see you not that I fall low to rhyme.

As for my mirth, how could I but be glad,
Whilst that methought I justly made my boast
That only I the only mistress had?
But now, if e'er my face with joy be clad,
Think Hannibal did laugh when Carthage lost.

Sweet lady, as for those whose sullen cheer,
Compared to me, made me in lightness sound;
Who, stoic-like, in cloudy hue appear;
Who silence force to make their words more dear;
Whose eyes seem chaste, because they look on ground:

Believe them not, for physic true doth find,
Choler adust is joyed in woman-kind.


Uttered in a Pastoral Show at Wilton.

WILL. Dick, since we cannot dance, come, let a cheerful voice
Show that we do not grudge at all when others do rejoice.

DICK. Ah Will, though I grudge not, I count it feeble glee,
With sight made dim with daily tears another's sport to see.
Whoever lambkins saw, yet lambkins love to play,
To play when that their loved dams are stolen or gone astray?
If this in them be true, as true in men think I,
A lustless song forsooth thinks he that hath more lust to cry.

WILL. A time there is for all, my mother often says,
When she, with skirts tucked very high, with girls at football plays
When thou hast mind to weep, seek out some smoky room:
Now let those lightsome sights we see thy darkness overcome.

DICK. What joy the joyful sun gives unto bleared eyes;
That comfort in these sports you like, my mind his comfort tries.

WILL. What? Is thy bagpipe broke, or are thy lambs miswent;
Thy wallet or thy tar-box lost; or thy new raiment-rent?

DICK. I would it were but thus, for thus it were too well.

WILL. Thou see'st my ears do itch at it: good Dick thy sorrow tell.

DICK. Hear then, and learn to sigh: a mistress I do serve,
Whose wages make me beg the more, who feeds me till I starve;
Whose livery is such, as most I freeze apparelled most,
And looks so near unto my cure, that I must needs be lost.

WILL. What? These are riddles sure: art thou then bound to her?

DICK. Bound as I neither power have, nor would have power, to stir.

WILL. Who bound thee?

DICK. Love, my lord.

WILL. What witnesses thereto?

DICK. Faith in myself, and Worth in her, which no proof can undo.

WILL. What seal?

DICK. My heart deep graven.

WILL. Who made the band so fast?

DICK. Wonder that, by two so black eyes the glitt'ring stars be past.

WILL. What keepeth safe thy band?

DICK. Remembrance is the chest
Lock'd fast with knowing that she is of worldly things the best.

WILL. Thou late of wages plain'dst: what wages may'sh thou have?

DICK. Her heavenly looks, which more and more do give me cause to crave.

WILL. If wages make you want, what food is that she gives?

DICK. Tear's drink, sorrow's meat, wherewith not I, but in me my death lives.

WILL. What living get you then?

DICK. Disdain; but just disdain;
So have I cause myself to plain, but no cause to complain.

WILL. What care takes she for thee?

DICK. Her care is to prevent
My freedom, with show of her beams, with virtue, my content.

WILL. God shield us from such dames! If so our dames be sped,
The shepherds will grow lean I trow, their sheep will be ill-fed.
But Dick, my counsel mark: run from the place of woo:
The arrow being shot from far doth give the smaller blow.

DICK. Good Will, I cannot take thy good advice; before
That foxes leave to steal, they find they die therefore.

WILL. Then, Dick, let us go hence lest we great folks annoy:
For nothing can more tedious be than plaint in time of joy.

DICK. Oh hence! O cruel word! which even dogs do hate:
But hence, even hence, I must needs go; such is my dogged fate.


To the tune of "Wilhelmus van Nassau," &c.

Who hath his fancy pleased,
With fruits of happy sight,
Let here his eyes be raised
On Nature's sweetest light;
A light which doth dissever,
And yet unite the eyes;
A light which, dying, never
Is cause the looker dies.

She never dies, but lasteth
In life of lover's heart;
He ever dies that wasteth
In love his chiefest part.
Thus is her life still guarded,
In never dying faith;
Thus is his death rewarded,
Since she lives in his death.

Look then and die, the pleasure
Doth answer well the pain;
Small loss of mortal treasure,
Who may immortal gain.
Immortal be her graces,
Immortal is her mind;
They, fit for heavenly places,
This heaven in it doth bind.

But eyes these beauties see not,
Nor sense that grace descries;
Yet eyes deprived be not
From sight of her fair eyes:
Which, as of inward glory
They are the outward seal,
So may they live still sorry,
Which die not in that weal.

But who hath fancies pleased,
With fruits of happy sight,
Let here his eyes be raised
On Nature's sweetest light.



Who hath e'er felt the change of love,
And known those pangs that losers prove,
May paint my face without seeing me,
And write the state how my fancies be,
The loathsome buds grown on Sorrow's tree.

But who by hearsay speaks, and hath not fully felt
What kind of fires they be in which those spirits melt,
Shall guess, and fail, what doth displease,
Feeling my pulse, miss my disease.


O no! O no! trial only shows
The bitter juice of forsaken woes;
Where former bliss, present evils do stain;
Nay, former bliss adds to present pain,
While remembrance doth both states contain.
Come, learners, then to me, the model of mishap,
Ingulphed in despair, slid down from Fortune's lap;
And, as you like my double lot,
Tread in my steps, or follow not.


For me, alas! I am full resolved
Those bands, alas! shall not be dissolved;
Nor break my word, though reward come late;
Nor fail my faith in my failing fate;
Nor change in change, though change change my state:

But always own myself, with eagle-eyed Truth, to fly
Up to the sun, although the sun my wings do fry;
For if those flames burn my desire,
Yet shall I die in Phoenix' fire.


When, to my deadly pleasure,
When to my lively torment,
Lady, mine eyes remained
Joined, alas! to your beams.

With violence of heavenly
Beauty, tied to virtue;
Reason abashed retired;
Gladly my senses yielded.

Gladly my senses yielding,
Thus to betray my heart's fort,
Left me devoid of all life.

They to the beamy suns went,
Where, by the death of all deaths,
Find to what harm they hastened.

Like to the silly Sylvan,
Burned by the light he best liked,
When with a fire he first met.

Yet, yet, a life to their death,
Lady you have reserved;
Lady the life of all love.

For though my sense be from me,
And I be dead, who want sense,
Yet do we both live in you.

Turned anew, by your means,
Unto the flower that aye turns,
As you, alas! my sun bends.

Thus do I fall to rise thus;
Thus do I die to live thus;
Changed to a change, I change not.

Thus may I not be from you;
Thus be my senses on you;
Thus what I think is of you;
Thus what I seek is in you;
All what I am, it is you.


To the tune of a Neapolitan song, which beginneth, "No, no, no, no."

No, no, no, no, I cannot hate my foe,
Although with cruel fire,
First thrown on my desire,
She sacks my rendered sprite;
For so fair a flame embraces
All the places,
Where that heat of all heats springeth,
That it bringeth
To my dying heart some pleasure,
Since his treasure
Burneth bright in fairest light. No, no, no, no.

No, no, no, no, I cannot hate my foe,
Although with cruel fire,
First thrown on my desire,
She sacks my rendered sprite;
Since our lives be not immortal,
But to mortal
Fetters tied, do wait the hour
Of death's power,
They have no cause to be sorry
Who with glory
End the way, where all men stay. No, no, no, no.

No, no, no, no, I cannot hate my foe,
Although with cruel fire,
First thrown on my desire,
She sacks my rendered sprite;
No man doubts, whom beauty killeth,
Fair death feeleth,
And in whom fair death proceedeth,
Glory breedeth:
So that I, in her beams dying,
Glory trying,
Though in pain, cannot complain. No, no, no, no.


To the tune of a Neapolitan Villanel.

All my sense thy sweetness gained;
Thy fair hair my heart enchained;
My poor reason thy words moved,
So that thee, like heaven, I loved.

Fa, la, la, leridan, dan, dan, dan, deridan:
Dan, dan, dan, deridan, deridan, dei:
While to my mind the outside stood,
For messenger of inward good.

Nor thy sweetness sour is deemed;
Thy hair not worth a hair esteemed;
Reason hath thy words removed,
Finding that but words they proved.

Fa, la, la, leridan, dan, dan, dan, deridan,
Dan, dan, dan, deridan, deridan, dei:
For no fair sign can credit win,
If that the substance fail within.

No more in thy sweetness glory,
For thy knitting hair be sorry;
Use thy words but to bewail thee
That no more thy beams avail thee;
Dan, dan,
Dan, dan,
Lay not thy colours more to view,
Without the picture be found true.

Woe to me, alas, she weepeth!
Fool! in me what folly creepeth?
Was I to blaspheme enraged,
Where my soul I have engaged?
Dan, dan,
Dan, dan,
And wretched I must yield to this;
The fault I blame her chasteness is.

Sweetness! sweetly pardon folly;
Tie me, hair, your captive wholly:
Words! O words of heavenly knowledge!
Know, my words their faults acknowledge;
Dan, dan,
Dan, dan,
And all my life I will confess,
The less I love, I live the less.


From "La Diana de Monte-Mayor," in Spanish: where Sireno, a shepherd, whose mistress Diana had utterly forsaken him, pulling out a little of her hair, wrapped about with green silk, to the hair he thus bewailed himself.

What changes here, O hair,
I see, since I saw you!
How ill fits you this green to wear,
For hope, the colour due!
Indeed, I well did hope,
Though hope were mixed with fear,
No other shepherd should have scope
Once to approach this hair.

Ah hair! how many days
My Dian made me show,
With thousand pretty childish plays,
If I ware you or no:
Alas, how oft with tears, -
O tears of guileful breast! -
She seemed full of jealous fears,
Whereat I did but jest.

Tell me, O hair of gold,
If I then faulty be,
That trust those killing eyes I would,
Since they did warrant me?
Have you not seen her mood,
What streams of tears she spent,
'Till that I sware my faith so stood,
As her words had it bent?

Who hath such beauty seen
In one that changeth so?
Or where one's love so constant been,
Who ever saw such woe?
Ah, hair! are you not grieved
To come from whence you be,
Seeing how once you saw I lived,
To see me as you see?

On sandy bank of late,
I saw this woman sit;
Where, "Sooner die than change my state,"
She with her finger writ:
Thus my belief was staid,
Behold Love's mighty hand
On things were by a woman said,
And written in the sand.

The same Sireno in "Monte-Mayor," holding his mistress's glass before her, and looking upon her while she viewed herself, thus sang:-

Of this high grace, with bliss conjoined,
No farther debt on me is laid,
Since that in self-same metal coined,
Sweet lady, you remain well paid;

For if my place give me great pleasure,
Having before my nature's treasure,
In face and eyes unmatched being,
You have the same in my hands, seeing
What in your face mine eyes do measure.

Nor think the match unevenly made,
That of those beams in you do tarry,
The glass to you but gives a shade,
To me mine eyes the true shape carry;
For such a thought most highly prized,
Which ever hath Love's yoke despised,
Better than one captived perceiveth,
Though he the lively form receiveth,
The other sees it but disguised.


The dart, the beams, the sting, so strong I prove,
Which my chief part doth pass through, parch, and tie,
That of the stroke, the heat, and knot of love,
Wounded, inflamed, knit to the death, I die.

Hardened and cold, far from affection's snare
Was once my mind, my temper, and my life;
While I that sight, desire, and vow forbare,
Which to avoid, quench, lose, nought boasted strife.

Yet will not I grief, ashes, thraldom change
For others' ease, their fruit, or free estate;
So brave a shot, dear fire, and beauty strange,
Bid me pierce, burn, and bind, long time and late,
And in my wounds, my flames, and bonds, I find
A salve, fresh air, and bright contented mind.

* * *

Virtue, beauty, and speech, did strike, wound, charm,
My heart, eyes, ears, with wonder, love, delight,
First, second, last, did bind, enforce, and arm,
His works, shows, suits, with wit, grace, and vows' might,

Thus honour, liking, trust, much, far, and deep,
Held, pierced, possessed, my judgment, sense, and will,
Till wrongs, contempt, deceit, did grow, steal, creep,
Bands, favour, faith, to break, defile, and kill,

Then grief, unkindness, proof, took, kindled, taught,
Well-grounded, noble, due, spite, rage, disdain:
But ah, alas! in vain my mind, sight, thought,
Doth him, his face, his words, leave, shun, refrain.
For nothing, time, nor place, can loose, quench, ease
Mine own embraced, sought, knot, fire, disease.


Faint amorist, what, dost thou think
To taste Love's honey, and not drink
One dram of gall? or to devour
A world of sweet, and taste no sour?
Dost thou ever think to enter
Th' Elysian fields, that dar'st not venture
In Charon's barge? a lover's mind
Must use to sail with every wind.
He that loves and fears to try,
Learns his mistress to deny.
Doth she chide thee? 'tis to show it,
That thy coldness makes her do it:
Is she silent? is she mute?
Silence fully grants thy suit:
Doth she pout, and leave the room?
Then she goes to bid thee come:
Is she sick? why then be sure,
She invites thee to the cure:
Doth she cross thy suit with "No?"
Tush, she loves to hear thee woo:
Doth she call the faith of man
In question? Nay, she loves thee than;
And if e'er she makes a blot,
She's lost if that thou hit'st her not.
He that after ten denials,
Dares attempt no farther trials,
Hath no warrant to acquire
The dainties of his chaste desire.


Since shunning pain, I ease can never find;
Since bashful dread seeks where he knows me harmed;
Since will is won, and stopped ears are charmed;
Since force doth faint, and sight doth make me blind;
Since loosing long, the faster still I bind;
Since naked sense can conquer reason armed;
Since heart, in chilling fear, with ice is warmed;
In fine, since strife of thought but mars the mind,
I yield, O Love, unto thy loathed yoke,
Yet craving law of arms, whose rule doth teach,
That, hardly used, who ever prison broke,
In justice quit, of honour made no breach:
Whereas, if I a grateful guardian have,
Thou art my lord, and I thy vowed slave.

When Love puffed up with rage of high disdain,
Resolved to make me pattern of his might,
Like foe, whose wits inclined to deadly spite,
Would often kill, to breed more feeling pain;
He would not, armed with beauty, only reign
On those affects which easily yield to sight;
But virtue sets so high, that reason's light,
For all his strife can only bondage gain:
So that I live to pay a mortal fee,
Dead palsy-sick of all my chiefest parts,
Like those whom dreams make ugly monsters see,
And can cry help with naught but groans and starts:
Longing to have, having no wit to wish,
To starving minds such is god Cupid's dish.


To the tune of "Non credo gia che piu infelice amante."

The nightingale, as soon as April bringeth
Unto her rested sense a perfect waking,
While late bare earth, proud of new clothing, springeth,
Sings out her woes, a thorn her song-book making;
And mournfully bewailing,
Her throat in tunes expresseth
What grief her breast oppresseth,
For Tereus' force on her chaste will prevailing.
O Philomela fair! O take some gladness,
That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness:
Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth;
Thy thorn without, my thorn my heart invadeth.


Alas! she hath no other cause of anguish,
But Tereus' love, on her by strong hand wroken,
Wherein she suffering, all her spirits languish,
Full womanlike, complains her will was broken,
But I, who daily craving,
Cannot have to content me,
Have more cause to lament me,
Since wanting is more woe than too much having.
O Philomela fair! O take some gladness,
That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness:
Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth;
Thy thorn without, my thorn my heart invadeth.


To the tune of "Basciami vita mia."

Sleep, baby mine, Desire's nurse, Beauty, singeth;
Thy cries, O baby, set mine head on aching:
The babe cries, "'Way, thy love doth keep me waking."

Lully, lully, my babe, Hope cradle bringeth
Unto my children alway good rest taking:
The babe cries, "Way, thy love doth keep me waking."

Since, baby mine, from me thy watching springeth,
Sleep then a little, pap Content is making;
The babe cries, "Nay, for that abide I waking."


The scourge of life, and death's extreme disgrace;
The smoke of hell, the monster called Pain:
Long shamed to be accursed in every place,
By them who of his rude resort complain;
Like crafty wretch, by time and travel taught,
His ugly evil in others' good to hide;
Late harbours in her face, whom Nature wrought
As treasure-house where her best gifts do bide;
And so by privilege of sacred seat,
A seat where beauty shines and virtue reigns,
He hopes for some small praise, since she hath great,
Within her beams wrapping his cruel stains.
Ah, saucy Pain, let not thy terror last,
More loving eyes she draws, more hate thou hast.


Woe! woe to me, on me return the smart:
My burning tongue hath bred my mistress pain?
For oft in pain, to pain my painful heart,
With her due praise did of my state complain.
I praised her eyes, whom never chance doth move;
Her breath, which makes a sour answer sweet;
Her milken breasts, the nurse of child-like love;
Her legs, O legs! her aye well-stepping feet:
Pain heard her praise, and full of inward fire,
(First sealing up my heart as prey of his)
He flies to her, and, boldened with desire,
Her face, this age's praise, the thief doth kiss.
O Pain! I now recant the praise I gave,
And swear she is not worthy thee to have.


Thou pain, the only guest of loathed Constraint;
The child of Curse, man's weakness foster-child;
Brother to Woe, and father of Complaint:
Thou Pain, thou hated Pain, from heaven exiled,
How hold'st thou her whose eyes constraint doth fear,
Whom cursed do bless; whose weakness virtues arm;
Who others' woes and plaints can chastely bear:
In whose sweet heaven angels of high thoughts swarm?
What courage strange hath caught thy caitiff heart?
Fear'st not a face that oft whole hearts devours?
Or art thou from above bid play this part,
And so no help 'gainst envy of those powers?
If thus, alas, yet while those parts have woe;
So stay her tongue, that she no more say, "O."


And have I heard her say, "O cruel pain!"
And doth she know what mould her beauty bears?
Mourns she in truth, and thinks that others feign?
Fears she to feel, and feels not others' fears?
Or doth she think all pain the mind forbears?
That heavy earth, not fiery spirits, may plain?
That eyes weep worse than heart in bloody tears?
That sense feels more than what doth sense contain?
No, no, she is too wise, she knows her face
Hath not such pain as it makes others have:
She knows the sickness of that perfect place
Hath yet such health, as it my life can save.
But this, she thinks, our pain high cause excuseth,
Where her, who should rule pain, false pain abuseth.

* * *

Like as the dove, which seeled up doth fly,
Is neither freed, nor yet to service bound;
But hopes to gain some help by mounting high,
Till want of force do force her fall to ground:
Right so my mind, caught by his guiding eye,
And thence cast off where his sweet hurt he found,
Hath neither leave to live, nor doom to die;
Nor held in evil, nor suffered to be sound.
But with his wings of fancies up he goes,
To high conceits, whose fruits are oft but small;
Till wounded, blind, and wearied spirit, lose
Both force to fly, and knowledge where to fall:
O happy dove, if she no bondage tried!
More happy I, might I in bondage bide!

* * *

In wonted walks, since wonted fancies change,
Some cause there is, which of strange cause doth rise:
For in each thing whereto mine eye doth range,
Part of my pain, me-seems, engraved lies.
The rocks, which were of constant mind the mark,
In climbing steep, now hard refusal show;
The shading woods seem now my sun to dark,
And stately hills disdain to look so low.
The restful caves now restless visions give;
In dales I see each way a hard ascent:
Like late-mown meads, late cut from joy I live;
Alas, sweet brooks do in my tears augment:
Rocks, woods, hills, caves, dales, meads, brooks, answer me;
Infected minds infect each thing they see.
If I could think how these my thoughts to leave,
Or thinking still, my thoughts might have good end;
If rebel sense would reason's law receive;
Or reason foiled, would not in vain contend:
Then might I think what thoughts were best to think:
Then might I wisely swim, or gladly sink.

If either you would change your cruel heart,
Or, cruel still, time did your beauties stain:
If from my soul this love would once depart,
Or for my love some love I might obtain;
Then might I hope a change, or ease of mind,
By your good help, or in myself, to find.

But since my thoughts in thinking still are spent.
With reason's strife, by senses overthrown;
You fairer still, and still more cruel bent,
I loving still a love that loveth none:
I yield and strive, I kiss and curse the pain,
Thought, reason, sense, time, You, and I, maintain.


Oft have I mused, but now at length I find
Why those that die, men say, they do depart:
Depart: a word so gentle to my mind,
Weakly did seem to paint Death's ugly dart.

But now the stars, with their strange course, do bind
Me one to leave, with whom I leave my heart;
I hear a cry of spirits faint and blind,
That parting thus, my chiefest part I part.

Part of my life, the loathed part to me, Lives to impart my weary clay some breath; But that good part wherein all comforts be, Now dead, doth show departure is a death:

Yea, worse than death, death parts both woe and joy,
From joy I part, still living in annoy.

* * *

Finding those beams, which I must ever love,
To mar my mind, and with my hurt to please,
I deemed it best, some absence for to prove,
If farther place might further me to ease.

My eyes thence drawn, where lived all their light,
Blinded forthwith in dark despair did lie,
Like to the mole, with want of guiding sight,
Deep plunged in earth, deprived of the sky.

In absence blind, and wearied with that woe,
To greater woes, by presence, I return;
Even as the fly, which to the flame doth go,
Pleased with the light, that his small corse doth burn:

Fair choice I have, either to live or die
A blinded mole, or else a burned fly.



Near Wilton sweet, huge heaps of stones are found,
But so confused, that neither any eye
Can count them just, nor Reason reason try,
What force brought them to so unlikely ground.

To stranger weights my mind's waste soil is bound,
Of passion-hills, reaching to Reason's sky,
From Fancy's earth, passing all number's bound,
Passing all guess, whence into me should fly
So mazed a mass; or, if in me it grows,
A simple soul should breed so mixed woes.


The Bruertons have a lake, which, when the sun
Approaching warms, not else, dead logs up sends
From hideous depth; which tribute, when it ends,
Sore sign it is the lord's last thread is spun.

My lake is Sense, whose still streams never run
But when my sun her shining twins there bends;
Then from his depth with force in her begun,
Long drowned hopes to watery eyes it lends;
But when that fails my dead hopes up to take,
Their master is fair warned his will to make.


We have a fish, by strangers much admired,
Which caught, to cruel search yields his chief part:
With gall cut out, closed up again by art,
Yet lives until his life be new required.

A stranger fish myself, not yet expired,
Tho', rapt with Beauty's hook, I did impart
Myself unto th' anatomy desired,
Instead of gall, leaving to her my heart:
Yet live with thoughts closed up, 'till that she will,
By conquest's right, instead of searching, kill.


Peak hath a cave, whose narrow entries find
Large rooms within where drops distil amain:
Till knit with cold, though there unknown remain,
Deck that poor place with alabaster lined.

Mine eyes the strait, the roomy cave, my mind;
Whose cloudy thoughts let fall an inward rain
Of sorrow's drops, till colder reason bind
Their running fall into a constant vein
Of truth, far more than alabaster pure,
Which, though despised, yet still doth truth endure.


A field there is, where, if a stake oe prest
Deep in the earth, what hath in earth receipt,
Is changed to stone in hardness, cold, and weight,
The wood above doth soon consuming rest.

The earth her ears; the stake is my request;
Of which, how much may pierce to that sweet seat,
To honour turned, doth dwell in honour's nest,
Keeping that form, though void of wonted heat;
But all the rest, which fear durst not apply,
Failing themselves, with withered conscience die.


Of ships by shipwreck cast on Albion's coast,
Which rotting on the rocks, their death to die:
From wooden bones and blood of pitch doth fly
A bird, which gets more life than ship had lost.

My ship, Desire, with wind of Lust long tost,
Brake on fair cliffs of constant Chastity;
Where plagued for rash attempt, gives up his ghost;
So deep in seas of virtue, beauties lie:
But of this death flies up the purest love,
Which seeming less, yet nobler life doth move.


These wonders England breeds; the last remains -
A lady, in despite of Nature, chaste,
On whom all love, in whom no love is placed,
Where Fairness yields to Wisdom's shortest reins.

A humble pride, a scorn that favour stains;
A woman's mould, but like an angel graced;
An angel's mind, but in a woman cased;
A heaven on earth, or earth that heaven contains:
Now thus this wonder to myself I frame;
She is the cause that all the rest I am.

* * *

Thou blind man's mark; thou fool's self-chosen snare,
Fond fancy's scum, and dregs of scattered thought:
Band of all evils; cradle of causeless care;
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought:

Desire! Desire! I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware;
Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought
Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare;

But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought;
In vain thou mad'st me to vain things aspire;
In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire:
For Virtue hath this better lesson taught,
Within myself to seek my only hire,
Desiring nought but how to kill Desire.


Leave me, O love! which reachest but to dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things:
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.

Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be,
Which breaks the clouds, and opens forth the light
That doth both shine, and give us sight to see.

O take fast hold! let that light be thy guide,
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide,
Who seeketh heaven, and comes from heavenly breath.
Then farewell, world, thy uttermost I see,
Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.





Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy