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SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
POETRY Is it the lyric that most displeaseth, who with his tuned lyre, and well-accorded voice, giveth praise, the reward of virtue, to virtuous acts; who giveth moral precepts, and natural problems; who sometimes raiseth up his voice to the height of the heavens in singing the lauds of the immortal God? Certainly, I must confess my own barbarousness, I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet; and yet is sung but by some blind crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style; which being so evil-apparelled in the dust and cobwebs of that uncivil age, what would it work trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindar?
An Apologie for Poetrie. THE GOLDEN WORLD NATURE never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done, neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make this too-much-loved earth more lovely. Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.
1561-1626 THE SERVICE OF THE MUSES Whether he believe me or no, there is no prison to the prison of the thoughts, which are free under the greatest tyrants. Shall any man make his conceit as an anchor, mured up with the compass of one beauty or person, that may have the liberty of all contemplation? Shall he exchange the sweet travelling through the universal variety for one wearisome and endless round or labyrinth? Let thy master, Squire, offer his services to the Muses. It is long since they received any into their court. They give alms continually at their gate, that many come to live upon; but few have they ever admitted into their palace. There shall he find secrets not dangerous to know, sides and parties not factious to hold, precepts and commandments not penal to disobey. The gardens of love wherein he now playeth himself are fresh today and fading to-morrow, as the sun comforts them or is turned from them. But the gardens of the Muses keep the privilege of the Golden Age; they ever flourish and are in league with Time. The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power:
the verses of a poet endure without a syllable lost, while states and empires pass many periods. Let him not think he shall descend, for he is now upon a hill as a ship is mounted upon the ridge of a wave; but that hill of the Muses is above tempests, always clear and calm a hill of the goodliest discovery that a man can have, being a prospect upon all the errors and wanderings of the present and former times. Yea, as from a cliff it leadeth the eye beyond the horizon of time, and giveth no obscure divinations of times to come. So that if he will indeed lead vitam vitalem, a life that unites safety and dignity, pleasure and merit; if he will win admiration without envy; if he will be in the feast and not in the throng, in the light and not in the heat, let him embrace the life of study and contemplation.
Essex's Device, 1595; Spedding, Life, i, 379.
BOOKS It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, no, nor of the kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but leese of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages: so that, if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, pass through the vast sea of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions the one of the other?
Advancement of Learning, Book I. TRUTH But I cannot tell; this same Truth is a naked and open daylight, that doth not show the masques and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so stately and daintily as candlelights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that, if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves?
Essays: Of Truth.
SOLITUDE But little do men perceive what Solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal where there is no love.
Essays: Of Friendship.
THE BREATH OF FLOWERS And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes, like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air. Roses, damask and red, are fast flowers of their smells; so that you may walk by a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea, though it be in a morning's dew. Bays likewise yield no smell as they grow; Rosemary little, nor Sweet Marjoram. That which, above all others, yields the sweetest smell in the air is the Violet, specially the white double Violet, which comes twice a year, about the middle of April and about Bartholomew-tide. Next to that is the Musk-Rose; then the Strawberry leaves dying with a most excellent cordial smell; then the flowers of the Vines - it is a little dust, like the dust of a bent, which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth. Then Sweet Briar; then Wallflowers, which are very delightful to be set under a parlour or lower chamber window; then Pinks, and Gilliflowers specially the matted Pink, and Clove Gilliflower; then the flowers of the Lime Tree; then the Honeysuckles, so they be somewhat afar off. Of Bean flowers I speak not, because they are field-flowers. But those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three — that is Burnet, Wild Thyme, and Water Mints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure, when you walk or tread.
Essays: Of Gardens. THE LONGING FOR DEATH DEATH arrives graciously only to such as sit in darkness, or lie heavy burthened with grief and irons; to the poor Christian that sits bound in the galley; to despairful widows, pensive prisoners, and deposed kings; to them whose fortune runs back, and whose spirits mutiny - unto such Death is a redeemer, and the grave a place for retiredness and rest. These wait upon the shore of death, and waft