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Defence of Poesie, Astrophil and Stella, and Other Writings

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  220 ratings  ·  10 reviews
This collection of works by Sir Philip Sidney includes Defence of Poesie, the most entertaining and penetrating critical essay of the period. Sidney's extraordinary originality, and the impetus given by his writing to those who followed him, make his poetry of lasting value.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 15th 1997 by Everyman Paperback Classics (first published 1586)
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One of the boldest flavors of Elizabethan English. There's a great point in the Defence where he declares that, poetic laurels being preeminent, Alexander the Great and Darius feuded merely to decide "who would be cock of this world's dung-hill." A poet and theorist, diplomat and courtier, who also died in battle against the Spanish. We use "Renaissance Man" to denote polymathic interests and aptitudes, but to me the phrase always conjures people like Sidney and Caravaggio and Cellini--artists o ...more
Still trying to read the things I was supposed to read in school and didn't. Sir Philip Sidney spent most of his life being groomed to be the perfect courtier for Elizabeth I; but because she took offense at some youthful comments, and because she had many problems with his family, she spent years never preferring him. Eventually he despaired of ever being a credit to his country or his family, and he spent four years writing "trifles"--the defense of poesie, the first sonnet sequence in English ...more
This is one of the most daring and beautiful works of Elizabethan English that I have read so far.

Sidney has a way of contradicting himself in the Defence of Poesie that is refreshing, comical, and utterly realistic. Astrophil and Stella is easily my favorite sonnet cycle. The unparalleled love is real and not real all at once. It is filled with longing, tension, and perhaps even a bit of insanity.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the dear she might take some pleasure of
Ms Cochran
Sep 02, 2009 Ms Cochran rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ms Cochran by: Paul Willis
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 sunburned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay;
Invention, Na
The sonnet sequence is brilliant; emotionally fractured, clever, tortured, artistic. Sidney's contribution to the courtly love tradition shows him, like Dante, like Petrarch, channeling despair into poetry, so that the poetry is eventually not about the despair at all, but about the poetry, itself. I was convinced of Sidney's genius when I read Song 2. It is the tension that exists in Sidney's sequence that makes it so much different from and, arguably, better than Shakespeare's.
"Astrophil and Stella" is the best medieval work I have read. Unparalleled romance, tinged in turns with melancholy and hope. It has inspired me with its depth, and after reading it over a year ago, I am still writing in response to it. None of his other poetry, however, has had a similar impact on me.
As far as English sonneteers go, this is not Shakespeare, but you could fare much worse - despite the rapey bits (e.g. Song 2). The Defence of Poesie, on the other hand, is a boring tedious piece of writing full of absurd references, you're better off reading a summary than suffering through it.
Though the modernized spellings were somewhat annoying, and the introduction printed in the original release of AStrophil & Stella aren't included, it's still a good, solid version. And Sidney is just as good a sonnetteer as Shakespeare.
Easily my favorite sonnet cycle, opening with one of my very favorite poems and probably the best hexameter sonnet in English.
Jan 17, 2010 Gary marked it as to-read
I've read Defence of Poesis, but not Astrophil and Stella.
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From Wikipedia:

Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier and soldier, and is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age.
More about Philip Sidney...
A Defence of Poetry Astrophel and Stella The Old Arcadia The Major Works: including Astrophil and Stella (Oxford World's Classics) Sidney's The Defence of Poesy and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism (Penguin Classics)

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