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A Short Analysis of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella 41: ‘Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance’

Written in the early 1580s, Astrophil and Stella is the first substantial sonnet sequence in English literature, and sees Sidney exploring his own life-that-might-have-been with Penelope Rich (whom he turned down), through the invented semi-autobiographical figures of ‘Astrophil’ (‘star-lover’) and ‘Stella’ (‘star’). Sonnet 41, which begins ‘Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance’, may have been inspired by a real-life tournament at Whitehall in May 1581, and sees Astrophil attributing his success as a jouster and horseman to Stella, who ‘Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.’

Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtain’d the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy France;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance,
Town folks my strength; a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight which from good use doth rise;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them who did excel in this, Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella 82: ‘Nymph of the garden where all beauties be’

On one of Sir Philip Sidney’s great love sonnets

Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnets often shut closed neatly and satisfyingly with a snap. They build towards their conclusion, and although Sidney uses the Petrarchan sonnet form (which doesn’t usually conclude with a rhyming couplet), his last lines tend to have the ring of finality about them, ending his poem with a bang rather than a whimper. ‘Nymph of the garden where all beauties be’, which is the 82nd sonnet in his sequence Astrophil and Stella, is a fine example of how well Sidney took the relatively new sonnet form (in English) and made it his own.

Nymph of the garden where all beauties be,
Beauties which do in excellency pass
His who till death looked in a watery glass,
Or hers whom nak’d the Trojan boy did see;
Sweet garden-nymph, which keeps the cherry-tree
Whose fruit doth far the Hesperian 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, Read the rest of this entry

The Best Sir Philip Sidney Poems Everyone Should Read

The best poems of Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86) was one of the finest poets of the English Renaissance and a pioneer of the sonnet form and English love poetry. Many of Sidney’s finest poems are to be found in his long sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella – the first substantial sonnet sequence in English literature – but he wrote a number of other poems which are much-loved and widely anthologised. Below we’ve chosen what we think are ten of Sir Philip Sidney’s best poems.

Sonnet 1: ‘Loving in truth’. One of the best poems about writing poetry, this sonnet, written in alexandrines or twelve-syllable lines, opens Sidney’s great sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, a sequence of 108 sonnets – and a few songs – inspired by Sidney’s unrequited love for Penelope Rich (nee Devereux), who was offered to him as a potential wife a few years before. Sidney turned her down, she married Lord Robert Rich, and Sidney promptly realised he was in love with her. In this sonnet, Sidney searches for the best way to marshal his feelings and put them into words that will move ‘Stella’. Read the rest of this entry