Sir Philip Sidney

1554-1586

 

Sir Philip Sidney is buried St Paul's Cathedral, London. Also buried here is John Donne. (See map...ref. no 5)


Commemorative stone to Philip Sidney
Photograph by Mike Reed

Sir Philip Sidney

In 1586 Sidney took part in a skirmish against the Spanish at Zutphen in the Netherlands and received a musket wound that shattered his thighbone.

22 days later he died from the wound. It is reported that on his death bed he refused a cup of water - even though he had a burning thirst - sending it instead to a dying soldier who lay near by, saying: "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." He was honoured with a state funeral.

Sidney adapted the Petrarchan sonnet and used it in Astrophel and Stella to write the first ever sonnet sequence in English.

The sequence, inspired by his love for Penelope Devereux, contains the famous couplet:

'Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
'Fool,' said my Muse to me; 'look in thy heart and write.'

It was Penelope's father's dying wish that she should marry Sidney but, in the end, she married Lord Rich and Sidney married Frances, the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham.

Sidney's poetry almost certainly influenced William Shakespeare. Edmund Spenser dedicated The Shepheardes Calender to Sidney and also wrote an elegy for him entitled Astrophel.

None of Sidney's poetry appeared during his lifetime but his friend Sir Fulke Greville (1st Baron Brooke) arranged for Arcadia to be published in 1590. Other posthumously published works included: The Lady of May (a short pastoral) and Defence of Poetry (an essay).

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 languished grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even 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 doth possess?
     Do they call 'virtue' there - ungratefulness?

To the Sad Moon

Click here to buy poetry by Sir Philip Sidney

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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