Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella (extracts)

Sonnet 1.

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 sunburn'd 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 trewand pen, beating myself for spite--
'Fool,' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write.'

Sonnet 2.

Not at first sight, nor with a dribbed (random) shot
Love gave the wound, which while I breathe will bleed,
But known worth did in mine of time proceed,
Till by degrees it had full conquest got.
I saw and liked, I liked, but loved not,
I loved, but straight did not what Love decreed;
At length to Love's decrees I, forc'd, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partial lot.
Now even that footstep of lost liberty
Is gone, and now like slave-born Muscovite,
I call it praise to suffer tyranny;
And now employ the remnant of my wit
To make myself believe, that all is well,
While with a feeling skill I paint my hell.

Sonnet 5

It is most true that eyes are formed to serve
The inward light, and that the heavenly part
Ought to be king, from whose rules who do swerve,
Rebels to nature, strive for their own smart.
It is most true, what we call Cupid's dart
An image is, which for ourselves we carve
And, fools, adore in temple of our heart,
Till that good god make church and churchman starve.
True, that true beauty virtue is indeed,
Wherof this beauty can be but a shade,
Which elements with mortal mixture breed;
True, that on earth we are but pilgrims made
And should in soul up to our country move;
True, and yet true that I must Stella love.

Sonnet 15

You that do search for every purling spring
Which from the ribs of old Parnassus flows,
And every flower, not sweet perhaps, which grows
Near therabout, into your poesy wring;
You that do dictionary's method bring
Into your rhymes, running in rattling rows;
You that poor Petrarch's long-deceased woes
With new-born sighs and denizened wit do sing;
You take wrong ways, those far-fet helps be such
As do bewray a want of inward touch,
And sure at length stolen goods do come to light;
But if (both for your love and skill) your name
You seek to nurse at fullest breasts of Fame,
Stella behold, and then begin to endite.

Sonnet 37

My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell,
My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labour be;
Listen then, lordings, with good ear to me,
For of my life I must a riddle tell.
Towards Aurora's court, a nymph doth dwell,
Rich in all beauties which man's eye can see,
Beauties so far from reach of words, that we
Abase her praise, saying she doth excell:
Rich in the treasure of deserved renown,
Rich in the riches of a royal heart,
Rich in those gifts which give the eternal crown;
Who though most rich in these and every part,
Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,
Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.

Sonnet 45

Stella oft sees the very face of woe
Painted in my beclouded stormy face,
But cannot skill to pity my disgrace,
Nor though thereof the cause herself she know;
Yet hearing late a fable which did show
Of lovers never known, a grievous case,
Pity thereof gate in her breast such place
That, from that sea derived, tears' spring did flow.
Alas, if fancy, drawn by imagined things,
Though false, yet with free scope more grace doth breed
Than servant's wrack, where new doubts honour brings,
Then think, my dear, that you in me do read
Of lovers' ruin some sad tragedy.
I am not I; pity the tale of me.

Sonnet 47

What, have I thus betrayed my liberty?
Can those black beams such burning marks engrave
In my free side? or am I born a slave,
Whose neck becomes such yoke of tyranny?
Or want I sense to feel my misery?
Or sprite, disdain of such disdain to have?
Who for long faith, though daily help I crave,
May get no alms but scorn of beggary.
Virtue, awake! Beauty but beauty is.
I may, I must, I can, I will, I do
Leave following that which it is gain to miss.
Let her go! Soft! But here she comes! Go to:
'Unkind, I love you not!' O me! That eye
Doth make my heart give to my tongue the lie.

Sonnet 69

O joy, too high for my low style to show!
O bliss, fit for a nobler state than me!
Envy, put out thine eyes, lest thou do see
What oceans of delight in me do flow.
My friend, that oft saw through all masks my woe,
Come, come, and let me pour myself on thee:
Gone is the winter of my misery,
My spring appears; O see what here doth grow.
For Stella hath, with words where faith doth shine,
Of her high heart given me the monarchy;
I, I, O I may say that she is mine!
And though she give but thus conditionally
This realm of bliss while virtuous course I take,
No kings be crowned but they some covenants make.

Sonnet 71

Who will in fairest book of Nature know
How Virtue may best lodged in beauty be,
Let him but learn of Love to read in thee,
Stella, those fair lines, which true goodness show.
There shall he find all vices' overthrow,
Not by rude force, but sweetest sovereignty
Of Reason, from whose light those night-birds fly;
That inward sun in thine eyes shineth so.
And not content to be Perfection's heir
Thyself, dost strive all minds that way to move,
Who mark in thee what is in thee most fair.
So while thy beauty draws the heart to love,
As fast thy virtue bends that love to good;
'But ah!' Desire still cries, 'give me some food!'

Sonnet 72

Desire, though thou my old companion art
And oft so clings to my pure love, that I
One from the other scarcely can descry,
While each doth blow the fire of my heart,
Now from thy fellowship I needs must part.
Venus is taught with Dian's wings to fly;
I must no more in thy sweet passions lie;
Virtue's gold now must head my Cupid's dart.
Service and honour, wonder with delight,
Fear to offend, will worthy to appear,
Care shining in my eyes, faith in my sprite;
These things are left me by my only dear;
But thou, Desire, because thou wouldst have all,
Now banished art: but yet, alas, how shall?

Second Song

Have I caught my heav'nly jewel
Teaching sleep most fair to be?
Now will I teach her that she,
When she wakes, is too too cruel.

Since sweet sleep her eyes hath charmed,
The two only darts of Love:
Now will I with that boy prove
Some play, while he is disarmed.

Her tongue waking still refuseth,
Giving frankly niggard No:
Now will I attempt to know,
What No her tongue sleeping useth.

See the hand which waking guardeth,
Sleeping, grants a free resort:
Now will I invade the fort;
Cowards Love with loss rewardeth.

But o fool, think of the danger,
Of her just and high disdain:
Now will I alas refrain,
Love fears nothing else but anger.

Yet those lips so sweetly swelling,
Do invite a stealing kiss:
Now will I but venture this,
Who will read must first learn spelling.

Oh sweet kiss, but ah she is waking,
Lowring beauty chastens me:
Now will I away hence flee:
Fool, more fool, for no more taking.

Sonnet 74

I never drank of Aganippe well,
Nor ever did in shade of Tempe sit;
And Muses scorn with vulgar brains to dwell;
Poor layman I, for sacred rites unfit.
Some do I hear of Poets' fury tell,
But God wot, wot not what they mean by it;
And this I swear by blackest brook of hell,
I am no pick-purse of another's wit.
How falls it then that with so smooth an ease
My thoughts I speak, and what I speak doth flow
In verse, and that my verse best wits doth please?
Guess we the cause: 'What, is it thus?' Fie no.
'Or so?' Much less. 'How then?' Sure thus it is:
My lips are sweet, inspired with Stella's kiss.

Sonnet 91

Stella, while now by honour's cruel might
I am from you, light of my life, mis-led,
And that fair you, my Sun, thus overspread
With absence' veil, I live in Sorrow's night.
If this dark place yet shew, like candle light,
Some beauty's piece, as amber-coloured head,
Milk hands, rose cheeks, or lips more sweet, more red,
Or seeing jets, black, but in blackness bright,
They please, I do confess, they please mine eyes;
But why? Because of you they models be;
Models such be wood-globes of glistering skies.
Dear, therefore be not jealous over me,
If you hear that they seem my heart to move,
Not them, O no, but you in them I love.

Sonnet 108

When Sorrow (using mine own fire's might)
Melts down his lead into my boiling breast,
Through that dark furnace to my heart oppressed
There shines a joy from thee, my only light;
But soon as thought of thee breeds my delight,
And my young soul flutters to thee, his nest,
Most rude Despair, my daily unbidden guest,
Clips straight my wings, straight wraps me in his night,
And makes me then bow down my head, and say,
'Ah, what doth Phoebus' gold that wretch avail,
Whom iron doors do keep from use of day?'
So strangely (alas) thy works in me prevail
That in my woes for thee thou art my joy,
And in my joys for thee my only annoy.