Copyright

Philip Sidney: Poems & Explanation

Instructor: Debbie Notari
Sir Philip Sidney was a poet and dramatist from the Renaissance, but he didn't see himself as a writer. In this lesson, we will look at Sidney's life and poems and see how he contributed to Renaissance literature.

Sidney

Brief Biography

Sir Philip Sidney was born in 1554, the grandson of the Duke of Northumberland. His father was often away from home. Because Sir Philip grew up with a strong motherly influence, it is believed that he gained a unique understanding of women as is evidenced in his poems. To add to this womanly influence, his sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, helped Sidney in his writing and preserved his works after he died.

Sidney's mother, Lady Mary, was lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth whom she nursed back to health when the queen contracted smallpox. Lady Mary fell ill, and for the rest of her life, her face was disfigured due to the disease. Sir Philip Sidney seems to have drawn from his mother's fate in some of his poems, such as his Certain Sonnets, in which Sidney actually laments a beautiful woman's face that has been disfigured by disease.

Sir Philip Sidney lived an exciting life of travel, exploration, and sometimes danger. He enjoyed writing drama and poetry, but his writing was secondary to his life experiences. An excellent scholar, Sidney learned foreign languages easily. He served as a cupbearer, an ambassador, and, later, a governor for Queen Elizabeth, who liked Sidney, Sir Phillip Sidney

His Poems

Sir Philip Sidney was a masterful poet. He wrote both sonnets and book-length poems like Astrophil and Stella. In this section, we will analyze a few of Sidney's poems. The first poem is entitled 'The Bargain:'

'My true love hath my heart, and I have his,

By just exchange one for another given:

I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,

There never was a better bargain driven:

My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,

My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:

He loves my heart, for once it was his own,

I cherish his because in me it bides:

My true love hath my heart, and I have his.'

In this poem, Sidney takes on the persona of a woman. He uses repetition, which was common in Renaissance poetry. So was wit, and the words intertwine like the two hearts do in this poem.

Here is another example. In Sidney's fourteen-line sonnet, 'His Lady's Cruelty,' he asks the moon if women act the same up there as they do down here. Here is the text:

'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 heavenly place

That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?

Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes

Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case:

I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace

To me, that feels the like, thy state descries.

Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,

Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?

Are beauties there as proud as here they be?

Do they above love to be loved, and yet

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support