Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sydney-"Astrophel and Stella"

Astrophel and Stella

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The 1591 text of Astrophel and Stella

Likely composed in the 1580s by Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella an English sonnet sequence containing 108 sonnets and 11 songs. The name derives from the two Greek words, 'aster' (star) and 'phil' (lover), and the Latin word 'stella' meaning star. Thus Astrophel is the star lover, and Stella is his star. Sidney partly nativized the key features of his Italian model Petrarch, including an ongoing but partly obscure narrative, the philosophical trappings of the poet in relation to love and desire, and musings on the art of poetic creation. Sidney also adopts the Petrarchan rhyme scheme, though he uses it with such freedom that fifteen variants are employed.[1]

Some have suggested that the love represented within the sequence may be a literal one as Sidney evidently connects Astrophel to himself and Stella to Penelope Rich, the wife of a courtier. Payne and Hunter suggest that modern criticism, though not explicitly rejecting this connection, leans more towards the viewpoint that writers happily create a poetic persona, artificial and distinct from themselves.[2]



[edit] Publishing history

Many of the poems were circulated in manuscript form before the first edition was printed by Thomas Newman in 1591, five years after Sidney's death.[3] This edition included ten of Sidney's songs, a preface by Thomas Nashe and verses from other poets including Thomas Campion, Samuel Daniel and the Earl of Oxford.[4] The text was allegedly copied down by a man in the employ of one of Sidney's associates, thus it was full of errors and misreadings that eventually led to Sidney's friends ensuring that the unsold copies were impounded.[5] Newman printed a second version later in the year, and though the text was more accurate it was still flawed. The version of Astrophel and Stella commonly used is found in the folio of the 1598 version of Sidney's Arcadia. Though still not completely free from error, this was prepared under the supervision of his sister the Countess of Pembroke and is considered the most authoritative text available.[4] All known versions of Astrophel and Stella have the poems in the same order, making it almost certain that Sidney determined their sequence.

[edit] Selected sonnets


Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the dear She might take some pleasure of my pain:
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others' leaves to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
'Fool' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write.'


Some lovers speak when they their Muses entertain,
Of hopes begot by fear, of wot not what desires:
Of force of heav'nly beams, infusing hellish pain:
Of living deaths, dear wounds, fair storms, and freezing fires.

Some one his song in Jove, and Jove's strange tales attires,
Broidered with bulls and swans, powdered with golden rain;
Another humbler wit to shepherd's pipe retires,
Yet hiding royal blood full oft in rural vein.

To some a sweetest plaint a sweetest style affords,
While tears pour out his ink, and sighs breathe out his words:
His paper pale despair, and pain his pen doth move.

I can speak what I feel, and feel as much as they,
But think that all the map of my state I display,
When trembling voice brings forth that I do Stella love.


With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies !
How silently, and with how wan a face !
What, may it be that even in heav'nly place
That busy archer his sharp arrow tries?
Sure, if that long with Love acquanited eyes
Can judge of Love, thou feel'st a lovers case;
I feel it in thy looks, thy languished grace,
To me that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, e'en of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant Love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those Lovers scorn whom that Love do possess?
Do they call Virtue there ungratefulness?

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