Analysis of Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 41

Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 41 (Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance) is written by Sir Philip Sidney.

Analysis

In this sonnet, we find Sidney as an experienced soldier taking part in tournaments, jousts and duels which were a common affair. Such contests were often watched by the Queen and the nobility. Here the sonnet is autobiographical.

The poet describes his triumph in a tournament. He makes a special mention of the envoys from France (sweet enemy) who took part in the tournament. The poet on the horse which was under full control guided his lance at the target thus winning the prize to the dismay of the French envoys. It was a stiff competition, and the victory was hailed by all the spectators who attributed his victory to luck or regular practice or the skill he had inherited from his parents and grandparents, both on the paternal and the maternal sides.

The poet however says that the true cause of his success was not what the spectators believe, but it was the presence of Stella whose ‘heavenly face’ sent force radiance that enabled him to emerge successful in the tournament. What he means is that Stella’s presence was a great source of inspiration that brought him the prize. Thus he pays the highest tribute to ‘Stella’ whose ‘heavenly face’ is the guiding star.

Sidney was a complex amalgam of a statesman, courtier, soldier, diplomat a literary theorist and lover. Only on rare occasions could he be just one. Even in this autobiographical sonnet he expostulates on his skill as a soldier fighting his adversaries in a tournament and goes on to describe his ancestral lineage and ends up with a compliment to his “Stella’ whose heavenly face’ brought him the coveted prize.

In fact in the entire sonnet sequence, we have not a single sonnet that reveals just one facet of his personality. Had he lived longer, we might have had more poems without any mixture of multiple ideas. However, his Apology for Poetry shows him as an actuate literary critic and theorist; there is no diplomat, soldier or lover intervening in the flow of his thoughts and ideas on the subject.

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