Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney

Synopsis

This volume of selections from the writings of Sir Philip Sidney includes the whole of his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, his Defence of Poesy, his Certain Sonnets, and substantial parts of both versions of the Arcadia. A selection of letters helps to create a complete picture of Sidney the man, and a generous assemblage of supplementary texts illustrates his inventiveness as a royal entertainer and describes the literary cult that grew up around him after his sudden death in 1586.

Excerpt

The manner of the Arcadian shepherds was, when they met together, to pass their time, either in such music as their rural education could afford them, or in exercise of their body and trying ofmasteries. But, of all other things, they did especially delight in eclogues; wherein sometimes they would contend for a prize of well singing, sometimes lament the unhappy pursuit of their affections, sometimes, again, under hidden forms utter such matters as otherwise were not fit for their delivery. Neither is it to be marvelled that they did so much excel other nations in that quality since, from their childhood, they were brought up unto it, and were not such base shepherds as we commonly make account of, but the very owners of the sheep themselves,° which in that thrifty world the substantiallest men would employ their whole care upon. And when they had practised the goodness of their wit in such sports, then was it their manner ever to have one who should write up the substance of that they said; whose pen, having more leisure than their tongues, might perchance polish a little the rudeness of an unthought-on song. But the peace wherein they did so notably flourish, and especially the sweet enjoying of their peace to so pleasant uses, drew divers strangers, as well of great as of mean houses, especially such whom inward melancholies made weary of the world's eyes, to come and live among them, applying themselves to their trade: which likewise was many times occasion to beautify more than otherwise it would have been this pastoral exercise. But nothing lifted it up to so high a key as the presence of their own duke who, not only by looking on but by great courtesy and liberality, animated the shepherds the more exquisitely to seek a worthy accomplishment of his good liking, as this time after the valiant killing of the beasts by the two disguised princes performed. The duke (because Cleophila so would have it) used the artificial day of torches to lighten the sports their inventions could minister. And yet, because many more shepherds were newly come than at the first were, he did, with a gentle manner, chastise the cowardice of the fugitive shepherds with making them for that night the torch bearers; and the others later come, he willed, with all freedom of speech and behaviour, to keep their accustomed method; which they prepared themselves to do, while he sat himself down, having on the one side the duchess, but of his heart side the fair Cleophila. To whom speaking in looks (for as yet his tongue was not come to a thorough boldness), he . . .

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