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Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Morpheus, the lively son of deadly Sleep,
I never drank of Aganippe well,
Nor ever did in shade of Temple sit,
Poor layman I, for sacred rites unfit.
But, God wot, wot not what they mean by it;
I am no pick-purse of another's wit.
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.
Stella, think not that I by verse seek fame,
Who seek, who hope, who love, who live but thee;
Thine eyes my pride, thy lips mine history: If thou praise not, all other praise is shame. Nor so ambitious am I, as to frame
A nest for my young praise in laurel tree:
In truth, I swear I wish not there should be
That any laud thereof to me should grow,
Without my plumes from others' wings I take:
For nothing from my wit or will doth flow,
Stella, since thou so right a princess art
Of all the powers which life bestows on me,
That ere by them ought undertaken be,
Which pants as though it still should leap to thee:
And on my thoughts give thy lieutenancy
On servants shame oft masters' blame doth sit:
Whose senses in so ill consort their step-dame Nature lays,
Who have so leaden eyes, as not to see sweet Beauty's show,
APOLOGIE FOR POETRIE.
BY SIR PHILIP SIDNEY.
[Sir PAILIP SIDNEY, the model chevalier of mediæval England, valorous knight and romancist and poet, was born at Penshurst in Kent, 1554. Educated at Shrewsbury, at Christ Church, Oxford, and at Cambridge, he traveled all through Europe, narrowly escaped murder in the massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572), and returned in 1575, becoming a speedy favorite of Elizabeth, with whom his uncle the Earl of Leicester was then in the ascendant; in 1576 was made envoy to the Emperor Rudolf at Vienna; retiring from court on account of a quarrel, he wrote his romance “ Arcadia"; married Walsingham's daughter in 1583. In 1585 he took part in Leicester's expedition to the Low Countries; was made governor of Flushing; and at Zutphen, October 1586, he was mortally wounded. (The famous story, “ Thy necessity is greater than mine,” will be recalled.) England went into a passion of mourning for him. His “ Astrophel and Stella " and the “Defence of Poesie were published posthumously.]
TRUELY I imagine, it falleth out with these Poet-whyppers, as with some good women, who often are sicke, but in fayth they cannot tel where. So the name of Poetrie is odious to them, but neither his cause, nor effects, neither the sum that containes him, nor the particularities descending from him, give any fast handle to their carping disprayse.
Sith then Poetrie is of all humane learning the most auncient, and of most fatherly antiquitie, as from whence other learnings have taken theyr beginnings : sith it is so universall, that no learned Nation dooth
despise it, nor no barbarous Nation is without it : sith both Roman and Greek gave divine names unto it : the one of prophecying, the other of making. And that indeede, that name of making is fit for him ; considering, that where as other Arts retaine themselves within their subject, and receive as it were, their beeing from it: the Poet onely, bringeth his owne stuffe, and dooth not learn a conceite out of a matter, but maketh matter for a conceite : Sith neither his description, nor his ende, contayneth any evill, the thing described cannot be evill : Sith his effects be so good as to teach goodnes and to delight the learners : Sith therein, (namely in morrall doctrine, the chiefe of all knowledges,) hee dooth not onely farre passe the Historian, but for instructing, is well nigh comparable to the Philosopher : and for moving, leaves him behind him : Sith the holy scripture (wherein there is no uncleannes) hath whole parts in it poeticall. And that even our Saviour Christ, vouchsafed to use the flowers of it: Sith all his kinde are not onlie in their united formes, but in their severed dissections fully commendable, I think, (and think I thinke rightly) the Lawrell crowne appointed for tryumphing Captaines, doth worthilie (of al other learnings) honor the Poets tryumph. But because wee have eares aswell as tongues, and that the lightest reasons that may be, will seeme to weigh greatly, if nothing be put in the counter-ballance : let us heare, and aswell as wee can ponder, what objections may bee made against this Arte, which may be worthy, eyther of yeelding, or answering
First, that there beeing many other more fruitefull knowl. edges, a man might better spend his tyme in them, then in this. Secondly, that it is the mother of lyes. Thirdly, that it is the Nurse of abuse, infecting us with many pestilent desires : with a Syrens sweetnes, drawing the mind to the Serpents tayle of sinfull fancy. And heerein especially, Comedies give the largest field to erre, as Chaucer sayth : howe both in other nations and in ours, before Poets did soften us, we were full of courage, given to martiall exercises ; the pillers of manlyke liberty, and not lulled asleepe in shady idlenes with Poets pastimes. And lastly, and chiefely, they cry out with an open mouth, as if they out shot Robin Hood, that Plato banished them out of hys common-wealth. Truely, this is much, if there be much truth in it.
First to the first : that a man might better spend his tyme, is a reason indeede: but it doth (as they say) but Petere principium : for if it be as I affirme, that no learning is so good, as that which teacheth and mooveth to vertue; and that none can both teach and move thereto so much as Poetry : then is the conclusion manifest, that Incke and Paper cannot be to a more profitable purpose employed. And certainly, though a man should graunt their first assumption, it shoulde followe (me thinkes) very unwillingly, that good is not good, because better is better. But I still and utterly denye, that there is sprong out of earth a more fruitefull knowledge.
To the second therefore, that they should be the principall lyars ; I aunswere paradoxically, but truely, I thinke truely ; that of all Writers under the sunne, the Poet is the least lier: and though he would, as a Poet can scarcely be a lyer, the Astronomer, with his cosen the Geometrician, can hardly escape, when they take upon them to measure the height of the starres. How often, thinke you, doe the Phisitians lye, when they aver things, good for sicknesses, which afterwards send Charon a great nomber of soules drownd in a potion before they come to his Ferry. And no lesse of the rest, which take upon them to affirme. Now, for the Poet, he nothing affirmes, and therefore never lyeth. For, as I take it, to lye, is to affirme that to be true what is false. So as the other Artists, and especially the Historian, affirming many things, can in the cloudy knowledge of mankinde, hardly escape from many lyes. But the Poet (as I sayd before) never affirmeth. The Poet never maketh any circles about your imagination, to conjure you to beleeve for true what he writes. Hee citeth not authorities of other Histories, but even for hys entry, calleth the sweete Muses to inspire into him a good invention : in troth, not labouring to tell you what is, or is not, but what should or should not be: and therefore, though he recount things not true, yet because hee telleth them not for true, he lyeth not, without we will say, that Nathan, lyed in his speech, before alledged to David. Which as a wicked man durst scarce say, so think I, none so simple would say, that Esope lyed in the tales of his beasts : for who thinks that Esope writ it for actually true, were well worthy to have his name cronicled among the beastes hee writeth of.
What childe is there, that comming to a Play, and seeing Thebes written in great Letters upon an olde doore, doth beleeve that it is Thebes ? If then, a man can arive, at that childs age, to know that the Poets persons and dooings, are but pictures what should be, and not stories what have been, they will never give the lye, to things not affirmatively, but allegoricallie and figurativelie written. And therefore, as in Historie, looking for trueth, they goe away full fraught with falshood : so in Poesie, looking for fiction, they shal use the narration, but as an imaginative groundplot of a profitable invention.
But heereto is replyed, that the Poets gyve names to men they write of, which argueth a conceite of an actuall truth, and so, not being true, prooves a falshood. And doth the Lawyer lye then, when under the names of John a stile and John a noakes, hee puts his case ? But that is easily answered. Theyr naming of men, is but to make theyr picture the more lively, and not to builde any historie: paynting men, they cannot leave men namelesse. We see we cannot play at Chesse, but that wee must give names to our Chesse-men; and yet mee thinks, hee were a very partiall Champion of truth,