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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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‘To Sleep’: A Poem by John Keats

‘To Sleep’, a sonnet by one of the leading second-generation Romantic poets, John Keats (1795-1821), addresses sleep as a ‘soft embalmer of the still midnight’. Sleep allows us to escape our own minds, when one’s conscience begins to prick us, keeping us awake. Sleep wraps us up in lovely delicious rest, and allows us to forget the world.

To Sleep

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the ‘Amen,’ ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities. Read the rest of this entry

‘I dream of you, to wake’: A Poem by Christina Rossetti

‘I dream of you, to wake’ is a sonnet by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830-94). Although not one of her most famous poems, it’s a marvellous sonnet: addressed to the speaker’s lover, and contrasting the wonderful, perfect dream world that sleep brings with the less perfect reality that we wake to (hence ‘I dream of you, to wake’). If only she could dream all the time, then things would be all right!

‘I dream of you, to wake’ by Christina Rossetti

I dream of you, to wake: would that I might
Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;
Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,
As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight.
In happy dreams I hold you full in night.
I blush again who waking look so wan;
Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone,
In happy dreams your smile makes day of night. Read the rest of this entry