The Poet's Defence

The Poet's Defence

The Poet's Defence

The Poet's Defence

Excerpt

PHILIP SIDNEY'S fame is not the fame of a poet. The Arcadia lives only the dusty life of Lyly Euphues : it is remembered as history, not poetry. Sidney's sonnets have not kept it fresh. Sidney's fame has been kept fresh partly by the Defence of Poesie . But more lasting than this has been the memory of Sidney the Elizabethan gallant. Philip Sidney, Knight, was a man of uncommon delights, eagerness, and single mind. These virtues filled his acts, and fill his writings. The Defence of Poesie takes these virtues to be the commonplace of poems, and of every life. This is the faith which makes the Defence so winning an appeal. The man, rather than any principle, is winning; and the man has the graces of humour and liveliness. In this way, as a piece of graceful and manly pleading, the Defence of Poesie has helped to make Sidney's fame the fame of a gallant.

Nevertheless, Sidney was a poet. Sidney, the poet of Astrobhel and Stella , is not a 'gallant. He is a serious poet. Few English poems before Sidney's have his seriousness: a speaking by the poet himself to his self. Sidney's poems have only a beginning of it. We must not judge them by poems in which this way of speaking has become the only way: by Wordsworth Lucy poems, or by the love poems of Burns. But Astrophel and Stella is serious enough to mark principles in . . .

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