Whitney (1548?-1601?) was a follower of the Earl of Leicester and, when he collected and published A Choice of Emblemes, a student at the University of Leiden. His emphasis on honey-sweet verse as a thing of Sidney’s youthful past, and on his foreign fame, accord with the sense of hope for purposeful Anglo-Dutch Protestant action in the early part of 1586. The reality proved more complicated. Leicester’s popularity rapidly declined, as Governor-General he mismanaged his relationship both with Dutch leaders and with the queen, and Sidney was fatally wounded in September. On Whitney in Leiden, see Jan van Dorsten, Poets, Patrons, and Professors: Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and the Leiden Humanists, Leiden, 1962, pp. 131-8.
Whitney’s poem appears under the emblem of ‘Fame armed with a pen’, which was dedicated to Edward Dyer, Sidney having modestly refused it. (See ibid., p. 137).
When frowning fatall dame, that stoppes our course in fine,
The thred of noble SURREYS life, made hast for to untwine,
APOLLO chang’d his cheare, and lay’d awaie his lute,
And PALLAS, and the Muses sad, did weare a mourninge sute.
And then, the goulden pen, in case of sables cladde,
Was lock’d in chiste of Ebonie, and to Parnassus had.
But, as all times do chaunge, so passions have their space;
And cloudie skies at lengthe are clear’d, with Phoebus chearfull face.
For, when that barren verse made Muses voide of mirthe;
Behoulde, LUSINA sweetelie sounge, of SIDNEYS joyfull birthe.
Whome mightie JOVE did blesse, with graces from above:
On whome, did fortune frendlie smile, and nature most did love.
And then, behoulde, the pen, was bij MERCURIUS sente,
Wherewith, hee also gave to him, the gifte for to invente.