Critical Analysis of Sir Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesy
The Defence of Poesy by Philip Sidney published in 1595 is “ a long essay that comes as an answer to Stephan Gosson’s work “The School of Abuse”, where he, in his puritan and strict way of thinking, attacks the poet and his poetry” (Wharton 56). Gosson primarily points out that fiction and literature corrupt the public’s sense of morality since it opens the public’s mind with different realities. It gives the public ideas towards consumerism as literature and fiction becomes a way of money making.
It heightens human desire for material growth and development that is most of the time destructive. Gosson is afraid that people will prioritize tangible development than the traditional sense of morality. Philip Sidney though in this work of literature “The Defence of Poecy” opposes Gosson’s objections towards poetry or Gosson’s puritan attack on imaginative literature. He primarily stated that poetry has an indispensable place in the society as it is a reflection of history, ethics and philosophy. Poetry that contains these complementing elements has an ethical function to the readers.
Poetry by which he meant imaginative or creative writing has an ethical value which aims to appeal human beings to “see the form of goodness, which seen they cannot but love ere themselves be aware, as if they took a medicine of cherries” (Macaulay 11) Poetry which is the best faculty of invention for Sidney has a high purpose for moral education that challenges the minds of the readers. In this literature, Sidney gave good arguments. Unlike science and technology, poetry is a unique human art that is not completely dependent upon nature as the major subject. Instead, poetry makes complementing combinations.
Poets create out of their creative imagination, rationality, logic, observation, experiences, acquired knowledge from history and philosophies. The writer creatively combine any of these to create literature. Similarly, poet “lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclops, Chimeras, Furies, and such like” (Macaulay 12). Meanwhile poetry when it is factual will benefit the fallen and corrupt world.
The poetry’s content will illustrates something about reality, how these reality benefited the human beings and the writer’s perspective towards this particular reality. Poetry then is very useful to challenge the mind of the readers and also think like the poet itself as it introduces them into a world of ideas. Meanwhile poetry is also an art that reflects perfection, beauty and moral idealism. He says poetry “ worketh, not only to make a Cyrus which has been a particular excellency as nature might have done, but to bestow a Cyrus upon the world to make many Cyruses, if they will learn aright why and how that maker made him” (Macaulay 13).
He believes that this kind of fiction can actually influence the real world in socially positive ways. Members of the society with this kind of literature might be encourage to live a beautiful and ideal life. It will give them idea that this kind of life is possible. Therefore, poets through their works give the readers mental pictures towards the possibility of having a more ideal world, provide possible solutions and create ideal persons as models to follow in real life.
Poetry challenges the mind, the physical senses, the fantasy and the judgment of the readers. Through poetry, people are also encourage to create to make things beautiful just like what they read in literature. Sidney also stresses that the poet “goeth hand in hand with nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely ranging within the zodiac of his own wit” (Macaulay 11). Sidney apparently acknowledges that a poet uses all the his resources to create an art and in some sense a liar because they sometimes make things up.
But every poetry entertains, delights and teaches the readers with a specific educational purpose. There is nothing as “art’s for arts sake” because whatever the poet’s purpose or intention in creating, words that create images– whether good or bad– a poet moves the readers to be better than they are. The mental images establishes passion and desire and knowing your individual passion and desire will lead to self discovery and encourages journey for awareness. Apparently Sidney present poetry in its affirmative light illustrating its positive effects to the readers.