Sir Philip Sidney


Sonnets from Astrophil and Stella

    Sonnet 2
    Not 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.
5   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, forc’d, agreed,
    Yet with repining at so partial lot.
    Now even that footstep of lost liberty
10   Is gone, and now like slave-born Muscovite
    I call it praise to suffer tyranny;
    And now employ the remnant of my wit
    To make myself believe that all is well,
    While with a feeling skill I paint my hell.
    Sonnet 5
    It is most true, that eyes are formed to serve
    The inward light: and that the heavenly part
    Ought to be king, from whose rules who do swerve,
    Rebels to Nature, strive for their own smart.
5   It is most true, what we call Cupid’s dart,
    An image is, which for ourselves we carve;
    And, fools, adore in temple of our heart,
    Till that good god make church and churchmen starve.
    True, that true Beauty Virtue is indeed,
10   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.
    Sonnet 30
    Whether the Turkish new-moon minded be
    To fill his horns this year on Christian coast;
    How Poles’ right king means, without leave of host,
    To warm with ill-made fire cold Muscovy;
5   If French can yet three parts in one agree;
    What now the Dutch in their full diets boast;
    How Holland hearts, now so good towns be lost,
    Trust in the pleasing shade of Orange tree;
    How Ulster likes of that same golden bit
10   Wherewith my father once made it half tame;
    If in the Scottish court be welt’ring yet;
    These questions busy wits to me do frame.
    I, cumbered with good manners, answer do,
    But know not how, for still I think of you.
    Sonnet 35
    What may words say, or what may words not say,
    Where truth itself must speak like flattery?
    Within what bounds can one his liking stay,
    Where nature doth with infinite agree?
5   What Nestor’s counsel can my flames allay,
    Since Reason’s self doth blow the coal in me?
    And ah, what hope that hope should once see day,
    Where Cupid is sworn page to Chastity?
    Honour is honoured, that thou dost possess
10   Him as thy slave, and now long needy Fame
    Doth even grow rich, naming my Stella’s name.
    Wit learns in thee perfection to express,
    Not thou by praise, but praise in thee is rais’d;
    It is a praise to praise, when thou art prais’d.
    Sonnet 37
    My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell,
    My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labour be;
    Listen then lordings with good ear to me,
    For of my life a riddle I must tell.
5   Towards Aurora’s court a nymph doth dwell,
    Rich in all beauties which man’s eye can see:
    Beauties so far from reach of words, that we
    Abase her praise, saying she doth excel:
    Rich in the treasure of deserv’d renown,
10   Rich in the riches of a royal heart,
    Rich in those gifts that give th’ eternal crown;
    Who though most rich in these and every part
    Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,
    Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.
    Sonnet 45
    Stella oft sees the very face of woe
    Painted in my beclouded stormy face;
    But cannot skill to pity my disgrace,
    Not though thereof the cause herself she know:
5   Yet hearing late a fable, which did show
    Of lovers never known a grievous case,
    Pity thereof gat in her breast such place
    That from that sea derived tears’ spring did flow.
    Alas, if Fancy drawn by imag’d things,
10   Though false, yet with free scope more grace doth breed
    Than servant’s wrack, where new doubts honour brings;
    Then think my dear that you in me do read
    Of lover’s ruin some sad tragedy:
    I am not I, pity the tale of me.
    Sonnet 53
    In martial sports I had my cunning tried,
    And yet to break more staves did me address,
    While with the people’s shouts I must confess,
    Youth, luck and praise even filled my veins with pride.
5   When Cupid, having me, his slave, descried
    In Mars’s livery, prancing in the press:
    ‘What now, sir fool,’ said he; ‘I would no less,
    Look here, I say.’ I looked, and Stella spied:
    Who hard by made a window send forth light,
10   My heart then quaked, then dazzled were mine eyes,
    One hand forgot to rule, th’other to fight;
    Nor trumpet’s sound I heard, nor friendly cries;
    My foe came on, and beat the air for me,
    Till that her blush taught me my shame to see.
    Sonnet 71
    Who will in fairest book of Nature know
    How Virtue may best lodg’d in beauty be,
    Let him but learn of Love to read in thee,
    Stella, those fair lines which true goodness show.
5   There shall he find all vices’ overthrow,
    Not by rude force, but sweetest sovereignty
    Of reason, from whose light those night-birds fly,
    That inward sun in thine eyes shineth so.
    And not content to be perfection’s heir
10   Thy self, dost strive all minds that way to move,
    Who mark in thee what is in thee most fair;
    So while thy beauty draws the heart to love,
    As fast thy virtue bends that love to good.
    But ah, desire still cries: give me some food.
    Sonnet 72
    Desire, though thou my old companion art,
    And oft so clings to my pure love, that I
    One from the other scarcely can descry,
    While each doth blow the fire of my heart;
5   Now from thy fellowship I needs must part;
    Venus is taught with Dian’s wings to fly;
    I must no more in thy sweet passions lie;
    Virtue’s gold now must head my Cupid’s dart.
    Service and honour, wonder with delight,
10   Fear to offend, will worthy to appear,
    Care shining in mine eyes, faith in my sprite;
    These things are left me by my only dear;
    But thou Desire because thou wouldst have all,
    Now banished art, but yet alas how shall?
    Sonnet 82
    Nymph of the gard’n where all beauties be:
    Beauties which do in excellency pass
    His who till death looked in a watery glass,
    Or hers whom naked the Trojan boy did see.
5   Sweet gard’n nymph, which keeps the cherry tree,
    Whose fruit doth far th’Esperian taste surpass;
    Most sweet-fair, most fair-sweet, do not alas,
    From coming near those cherries banish me:
    For though, full of desire, empty of wit,
10   Admitted late by your best-graced grace,
    I caught at one of them a hungry bit;
    Pardon that fault, once more grant me the place,
    And I do swear, even by the same delight,
    I will but kiss, I never more will bite.
    Sonnet 90
    Stella think not that I by verse seek fame,
    Who seek, who hope, who love, who live but thee;
    Thine eyes my pride, thy lips my history;
    If thou praise not, all other praise is shame.
5   Nor so ambitious am I, as to frame
    A nest for my young praise in laurel tree;
    In truth I swear, I wish not there should be
    Graved in mine epitaph a poet’s name:
    Ne if I would, could I just title make,
10   That any laud to me thereof should grow,
    Without my plumes from others’ wings I take.
    For nothing from my wit or will doth flow,
    Since all my words thy beauty doth endite,
    And love doth hold my hand, and makes me write.
    Sonnet 106
    O absent presence, Stella is not here;
    False flattering hope, that with so fair a face
    Bare me in hand, that in this orphan place
    Stella, I say my Stella, should appear.
5   What say’st thou now, where is that dainty cheer
    Thou told’st mine eyes should help their famished case?
    But thou art gone, now that self felt disgrace
    Doth make me most to wish thy comfort near.
    But here I do store of fair ladies meet,
10   Who may with charm of conversation sweet
    Make in my heavy mould new thoughts to grow:
    Sure they prevail as much with me as he
    That bade his friend, but then new maimed, to be
    Merry with him, and not think of his woe.
    Sonnet 108
    When sorrow, using mine own fire’s might,
    Melts down his lead into my boiling breast,
    Through that dark furnace to my heart opprest
    There shines a joy from thee my only light;
5   But soon as thought of thee breeds my delight,
    And my young soul flutters to thee his nest,
    Most rude despair my daily unbidden guest,
    Clips straight my wings, straight wraps me in his night,
    And makes me then bow down my head, and say:
10   Ah, what doth Phoebus’ gold that wretch avail,
    Whom iron doors do keep from use of day?’
    So strangely, alas, thy works in me prevail,
    That in my woes for thee thou art my joy,
    And in my joys for thee my only annoy.

Contributed by Robert Clark.