Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
Sir Philip Sidney, as a poet, is found opposed to all poetic conventions and affectations even when he adheres to the primary forms and generic qualities of contemporary English poetry. However, his sonnets are free from the artificiality of conventional poetic works and are distinctly sincere. As seen in his sonnet “Loving in Truth”, certain traits of his personality emerge significantly. It is the first poem in his sequence, “Astrophel and Stella” and seems to contain the bearings of his lover’s pulse, in suspense and expectation.
Along with frank subjectivity and intense sincerity, “Loving in Truth” is enriched with rich imagination, a characteristic gift of the renaissance. Thematically, the poem is an open admission of the poet’s futile efforts to please his beloved through verse offerings. The poem signifies how he fails to find inspiration for his poetic composition from serious study and laborious imitation. His eagerness to draw her attention and thereby to win her favour thus fails till he realizes that true inspiration lies at the core of his heart. The central theme of the sonnet lies in the concluding couplet in which the poet identifies the true source of inspiration in spontaneity of expression: “Look in thy heart and write.”
The Courtly Love tradition
venerated the lady love
as the inaccessible goddess
The sonnet is rich in imagery that is pleasant but precise. The analogies of “other’s leaves” and “fresh and fruitful showers” are well conceived, and the metaphor of “sun-burned brain” is very original. Equally interesting are his personifications of “Invention”, “Nature” and “Study”. There is usually no vagueness about his images. Even farfetched expressions like “Step- dame study’s blows” and “truant pen” are quite witty and relevant to his contention.
The poem, therefore, both conforms to and deviates from the contemporary style of sonnet writing. It is characterized by a blend of wit and sensibility, of intellectual brilliance and temperamental ardor. Sidney’s sonnets, in their directness and spontaneity, remain an intimate record of the mind of a man who was both sincere and chivalrous. In his depth of sincerity and range of subjectivity, Sidney remains no less great than Shakespeare himself. His poems represent one of the most genial and original literary expressions of a true poet’s profound emotion of love.
Author: monami mukherjee
Poet, Blogger, Undergrad Professor. Literature and film enthusiast. Excited about both critical and creative writing.