Sunday Sonnet

One of the ongoing projects here is rediscovering old poetry, and Stella is one of the cycles of poems that is old for English. Sydney was an accomplished soldier, and like most officers of that time used the joust as a means of showing his skills.

The same thing happens when young men jump of bridges: taking some risks, either that the tide is out and there is not enough water or that they can swim in the strong currents of the ice-filled rivers in the South Island.

Sydney performed because the woman he still desired was there. But, unsaid, she had chosen another.
Photo by Kirk Thornton / Unsplash

XLI

Hauing this day my horse, my hand, my launce
Guided so well that I obtain'd the prize,
Both by the iudgement of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy Fraunce;

Horsemen my skill in horsemanship aduaunce,
Towne folkes my strength; a daintier iudge applies
His praise to sleight which from good vse doth rise;
Some luckie wits impute it but to chance;

Others, because of both sides I doe take
My blood from them who did excell in this,
Thinke Nature me a man-at-armes did make.
How farre they shot awrie! The true cause is,

Stella lookt on, and from her heau'nly face
Sent forth the beames which made so faire my race.

Sir Philip Sydney

You need talent and practice to excel at any martial art. But know this: Sydney died on the battle field. Training is needed, but it is not fighting, and it is not war.

French Nocturne (Monchy-Le-Preux)

Long leagues on either hand the trenches spread
And all is still; now even this gross line
Drinks in the frosty silences divine
The pale, green moon is riding overhead.

The jaws of a sacked village, stark and grim;
Out on the ridge have swallowed up the sun,
And in one angry streak his blood has run
To left and right along the horizon dim.

There comes a buzzing plane: and now, it seems
Flies straight into the moon. Lo! where he steers
Across the pallid globe and surely nears
In that white land some harbour of dear dreams!

False mocking fancy! Once I too could dream,
Who now can only see with vulgar eye
That he’s no nearer to the moon than I
And she’s a stone that catches the sun’s beam.

What call have I to dream of anything?
I am a wolf. Back to the world again,
And speech of fellow-brutes that once were men
Our throats can bark for slaughter: cannot sing.

Clive Staples Lewis

Show Comments

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.