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,