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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sonnets to Stella
By Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
 
(See full text.)

THE CURIOUS wits, seeing dull pensiveness
  Bearing itself in my long-settled eyes,
  Whence those same fumes of melancholy rise
With idle pains and missing aim do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did address,        5
  Deem that my Muse some fruit of knowledge plies;
  Others, because the prince of service tries,
Think that I think State errors to redress.
But harder judges judge ambition’s rage—
  Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place—        10
Holds my young brain captived in golden cage.
  O fools, or over-wise! alas, the race
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start
But only Stella’s eyes and Stella’s heart.
 
WITH how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies!        15
  How silently, and with how wan a face:
  What! may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
  Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case;        20
  I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O moon, tell me,
  Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?        25
  Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?
 
COME, sleep! O sleep, the certain knot of peace,
  The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe;        30
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
  Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low!
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
  Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw,—
Oh, make in me those civil wars to cease.        35
  I will good tribute pay, if thou do so:
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
  A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland and a weary head;
  And if these things, as being thine in right,        40
Move not thy heavy grace,—thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.
 
BECAUSE I breathe not love to every one,
  Nor do not use set colors for to wear,
  Nor nourish special locks of vowèd hair,        45
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
  Of them which in their lips love’s standard bear,
  “What, he!” say they of me: “now I dare swear
He cannot love; no, no, let him alone!”        50
And think so still, so Stella know my mind
  Profess indeed I do not Cupid’s art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
  That his right badge is but worn in the heart:
Dumb swans, not chattering pies, do lovers prove;        55
They love indeed who quake to say they love.
 
THOU blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare,
  Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scattered thought;
Band of all evils; cradle of causeless care;
  Thou web of will whose end is never wrought—        60
Desire, desire! I have too dearly bought
  With price of mangled mind thy worthless ware;
Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought,
  Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare.
But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought;        65
  In vain thou mad’st me to vain things aspire;
  In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire:
For virtue hath this better lesson taught—
  Within myself to seek my only hire,
  Desiring naught but how to kill desire.        70
 
LEAVE me, O love which reachest but to dust;
  And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
  Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and tumble all thy might        75
  To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be,
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,
  That doth but shine and give us sight to see.
Oh, take fast hold; let that light be thy guide
  In this small course which birth draws out to death;        80
And think how evil becometh him to slide,
  Who seeketh heaven and comes of heavenly breath.
Then farewell, world! thy uttermost I see:
Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!
 
 
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