Friday, July 26, 2013

Astrophil and Stella

Biography of Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, to Sir Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley. His mother was the daughter of John Dudley, the 1st Duke of Northumberland, and the sister of Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester. Sidney was named after his godfather, King Philip II of Spain. He attended the Shrewsbury School beginning in 1564 at the age of ten. There he met his longtime best friend and future biographer, Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. From 1568 to 1571, Sidney studied at Christ Church, Oxford, but he left without taking a degree in order to travel the continent and complete his education in that alternative way. He traveled through France (narrowly escaping the horrors of the Saint Bartholomew Massacre in Paris), Germany, Italy, and Austria.
Upon his return to England on May 31, 1575, Sidney took on the position of a popular and highly respected courtier. At this point, Sidney first made the acquaintance of Penelope Devereux, the eldest daughter of Lord Essex-a girl of only twelve years old. Lord Essex greatly desired a marriage between Sidney and Lady Penelope and, on his deathbed in 1576, allegedly proclaimed of Sidney, "Oh that good gentleman, have me commended unto him. And tell him I sent him nothing, but I wish him well-so well, that if God do move their hearts, I wish that he might match with my daughter. I call him son-he so wise, virtuous, and godly." In 1576, in the midst of his early courtship with Penelope, Sidney first began writing his famous sonnet sequence, Astrophel  and Stella (now spelled as Astrophil and Stella).
In 1577, Sidney was sent as ambassador to the German Emperor and the Prince of Orange. Officially he was to console the princes on the death of their father, and unofficially he was to explore the possibility of creating a Protestant league. In 1579, the projected marriage of Queen Elizabeth to the Duke of Anjou-the Roman Catholic heir to the French throne-roused Sidney to take action. He wrote an extremely bold letter to the Queen expressing his opposition to the match and, as a result, swiftly became the object of her severe displeasure. Retiring from court to avoid the Queen's wrath, Sidney spent several months living on the estate of his sister, Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, and writing the pastoral romance Arcadia.
With the marriage of his wealthy uncle, the Earl of Leicester, in 1578 and the following birth of a cousin, Sidney's fortunes swiftly changed. As the nephew and heir to the childless and unmarried Earl of Leicester, Sidney could be matched in marriage to the wealthiest woman in England. But simply as Sir Henry Sidney's son, without the prospective fortune of his uncle, Sidney was nothing more than a poor gentleman. This change in fortunes ensured that Sidney would no longer be an appropriate match for Penelope Devereux, despite the dying wishes of her father.
In 1581, Penelope was married to Lord Rich. Although she did not indicate any affection for Sidney before her wedding, her marriage to Lord Rich was recognized as unhappy. According to a letter written by the Earl of Devonshire to James I, Penelope never accepted Lord Rich as a husband but, "being in the power of her friends, she was by them married against her will unto one against whom she did protest at the very solemnity and ever after," who instead of being her "comforter did strive in all things to torment her," and with whom she lived in "continual discord."
In 1583 Sidney was knighted, and soon afterward, he married Frances, the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. In 1584, he took up a position in Parliament. A year later, he was appointed to the Governorship of Flushing in the Netherlands. On September 22, 1586, Sidney led a military body of two hundred English horsemen on an attack against a Spanish convoy on its way to the town of Zutphen. According to legend, as he was leaving the camp, Sidney met the camp's marshal, Sir William Pelham, wearing only light armor, and in an effort to emulate this nobility, Sidney threw aside his own armor and rode into battle unprotected. This anecdote was meant to emphasize Sidney's courage and similarity to the knight-errants in Arthurian legend. During the battle, Sidney's thighbone was shattered by a musket shot, and he died twenty-two days later. He was not yet thirty-two years old.
While lying injured, Sidney allegedly gave his water bottle to another wounded soldier, declaring, "Thy need is greater than mine." This demonstration of self-sacrifice and nobility made this episode one of the most famous stories about Sir Philip Sidney. As English bibliographer Alfred W. Pollard (1859-1944) remarks, "the story of Philip Sidney and the cup of cold water [is] among the best known anecdotes in English history."
Sidney's body was interred in St. Paul's Cathedral on February 16, 1587. His death was the cause of much mourning in England, with the Queen and her subjects grieving for the man who was the consummate courtier.

 

Astrophel and Stella
The title page of the 1591 edition of Astrophel and Stella
Likely composed in the 1580s, Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella is 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 Astrophil 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.
Some have suggested that the love represented within the sequence may be a literal one as Sidney evidently connects Astrophil to himself and Stella toPenelope Rich, the wife of a courtier, Robert Rich, 3rd Baronet. 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.
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. This edition included ten of Sidney's songs, a preface by Thomas Nashe and verses from other poets including Thomas CampionSamuel 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 Astrophil 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 Astrophil and Stella have the poems in the same order, making it almost certain that Sidney determined their sequence.
Astrophel vs. Astrophil
The Oxford University Press collection of Sidney's major works has this to say about the title:
There is no evidence that the title is authorial. It derives from the first printed text, the unauthorized quarto edition published by Thomas Newman (1591). Newman may also have been responsible for the consistent practice in early printings of calling the lover persona 'Astrophel'. Ringler emended to 'Astrophil' on the grounds of etymological correctness, since the name is presumably based on Greek aster philein, and means 'lover of a star' (with stella meaning 'star'); the 'phil' element alluding also, no doubt, to Sidney's Christian name.[6]
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.'

Loving, and wishing to show my love in verse, So that Stella might find pleasure in my pain, So that pleasure might make her read, and reading make her know me,And knowledge might win pity for me, and pity might obtain grace,I looked for fitting words to depict the darkest face of sadness,Studying clever creations in order to entertain her mind,Often turning others’ pages to see if, from them,
Fresh and fruitful ideas would flow into my brain.But words came out lamely, lacking the support of Imagination:Imagination, nature’s child, fled the blows of Study, her stepmother:And the writings (‘feet’) of others seemed only alien things in the way.So while pregnant with the desire to speak, helpless with the birth pangs,Biting at my pen which disobeyed me, beating myself in anger,My Muse said to me ‘Fool, look in your heart and write.’

How silently, and with how wan a face.
What, may it be, that even in heav’nly 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 feel the like, thy state descries.
Then ev’n of fellowship, oh Moon, tell me
Is constant love deem’d there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here thy be?
Do they above love to be lov’d, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that Love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?
Do they call their ungratefulness (unwillingness to please) virtue also?

With what sad steps O Moon you climb the skies,How silently and with how pale a face:What, can it be that even in a heavenly placeThat busy archer (Cupid) tries out his sharp arrows?Surely, if eyes that are long acquainted with love Can make judgments about it, you feel for lovers:I read it in your looks: your languished grace Reveals your state to me who feel similarly.
Therefore out of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,Is constancy in love deemed up there also to be lack of wit?Are beauties there as proud as they are here?

Do those above love to be loved, and yetScorn the lovers who are possessed by that love?Do they call their ungratefulness (unwillingness to please) virtue also?

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Did you know that you can create short urls with AdFly and get cash from every click on your shortened links.

Post a Comment