AD's English Literature : Sir Philip Sidney’s "Loving In Truth" in Sonnet Series "Astrophil and Stella" as a Typical Love Poem

Sir Philip Sidney’s "Loving In Truth" in Sonnet Series "Astrophil and Stella" as a Typical Love Poem

  Sir Philip Sidney’s Loving In Truth taken from his sonnet series Astrophil and Stella, is a typical Elizabethan sonnet based on Petrarchan figurative devices. In fact, it is characteristic piece of Sidney’ well known sonnet series and adequately represents his theme of love and impressive technique. 
As a Petrarchan form of sonnet, Loving In Truth has love as its central theme. Sidney, the celebrated ideal courtly poet of the Elizabethan Age, reportedly had a love relationship with Penelope Devereux, a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth I. His Astrophel and Stella tells the story of the poet Astrophel’s unrequited love for Stella, a high-born and virtuous woman. Loving In Truth, The first sonnet from the cycle conveys the changing emotions of Astrophel, in whose voice the poem is written toward Stella.
 The suggested title Loving In Truth implies the poem in genuine or sincere in love that is genuinely inspired. The poet expresses his eagerness to delight his ladylove by writing verse on his love. But he tries in vain to possess sufficient poetic inspiration and find fit words to paint the deep feeling of love:

 “I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe”

As noted above the sonnet deals with love and focuses the importance of spontaneous feeling of heart. The lover here is all for love and ready to bear all pain and labour for his lady’s pleasure. All that he seeks is to obtain her pity and grace. Here Sidney packs mute melancholy (the blackest face of woe) as his Stella is far beyond of his reach. His is a story of unrequited love.

 Love truly forms the dignity of the poem. The lover’s painful effort and study of invention fine are intended for her sake. Indeed the poem rings with a lover intimate feeling and emotion. Love is here an ideal of life that requires selfless dedication and earnest yearning.

The singleness of emotion that characterizes the Petrarchan sonnet is also distinctly evident in the present sonnet which is concerned with the emotion of love, rather dedicated love though graced with the spark of wit here and there. It well echoes the single and profound emotion of love that Astrophil has for Stella. There is, no doubt, a transition in the poet’s mood from the octave to sestet, but essential unity is nowhere found missing and the emotional impact remains all through unchangeable. The poet’s tone, inspired with the high ideal of love, is expressive of the singleness of the feeling.

Although Loving In Truth is a love poem, it is free from the sentimental hyperbolism or conventional epithets. There is graceful narration of poet’s play of wit. The eager lover expresses his ardent love, with an intellectual in which wit and reason are perfectly balanced. There is a steady flow of logical sequence of thought to arrive at the conclusion.

The play of wit is made equally by the use of such figures of speech as the pun, the personification and so on in the lines bellow:

“Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows;        
And others’ feet still seemed but strangers in my way.”

The personification of Invention as Nature’s child and Study as step mother is at once romantic and thought provoking.

Loving In Truth as already been asserted is a characteristic Petrarchan sonnet. Taking as a whole Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella seems to be contiguous and continuous innovators in the Petrarchan love lyric. Specifically Astrophil and Stella is concerned with the Problem of desire which engages the Petrarchan poet-lover in a self-questioning state between his knowledge of Neoplatonic love theory and his own particular experiences in love as an actual, sensual state of being. The technical feature of such a sonnet is found by Sidney here in Loving In Truth. The technical purity of 14 lines and the octave- sestet divisions are maintained by Sidney. The octave consists of poet’s frantic effort to please his ladylove by writing love lyrics. The sestet shows his failure and ultimate revelation. In his use of dictions, metaphorical imagery and epithets are well chosen, simple yet impressive.

Look what he says while plagiarizing from other sources en route composition of his own words:

“Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
 But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay;”

Through a beautiful pun the poet resorts to artificial composition to refresh his tortured brain by the sweet showers of others’ spring. But the words of other’s verse never shoot his purpose and they are stumbling and blocking his inflow of creativity.

Thus the poem becomes an important for its articulation of romantic idealism exhibited in the muse’s last words:

“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write!”  

The muse’s advice to the poet defines itself the origin of verses, i.e. ‘a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions’. Anticipating Wordsworth the poet heralds the voice of romanticism.

1.      The Columbia Anthology of British Poetry. Woodring, Carl and James Shapiro, eds.
2.   University Journal, CSJM University, Kanpur, India.

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