Gwynne contributed to the Oxford Exequiae of 1587 (see Introduction, p. 2), subsequently edited the 1590 Arcadia with Fulke Greville and John Florio, and became ‘Doctor in physick, fellow of S. Johns in Oxford’ (see NA, pp. lviii-ix).
Gwynne’s open identification of Penelope Rich as the Stella of the poems is probably less a biographical observation than a statement about the powerfulness of her position and of Sidney’s posthumous reputation (see Introduction, p. 32). It could also (like Florio’s dedicatory epistle (No. 31) in the same volume) reflect a desire to establish, in spite of the Countess of Pembroke and Hugh Sanford, that the Countess is not the only figure with a title to Sidneian intimacy and eminence.
The quotations or allusions from line 4 onwards are to Astrophil and Stella 71, 42 (‘whose beames be joyes’), 68, 24, 9, 68 again (‘heav’n of my delight’), 7, 71 again; Certain Sonnets 22 (anticipating the nineteenth-century tendency to believe that these poems were also addressed to Penelope Rich); and Astrophil and Stella 92 (‘Phenix Stella’) and 1.
Madame, to write of you, and doe you right,
What meane we, or what meanes to ayde meane might?
Since HE, who admirably did endite,
Entiteling you Perfections heire, Joyes light,
Loves life, Lifes gemme, Vertues court, Heav’ns delight,
Natures chiefe worke, Fair’st booke, his Muses spright,
Heav’n on earth, peerelesse Phoenix, Phoebe bright,
Yet said, he was to seeke, of you to write.
Unlesse your selfe be of your selfe devising;
Or that an other such you can inspire.
Inspire you can; but ô none such can be: