Sir Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney: Sonnet XXXI from Astrophel and Stella „With how sad steps, O Moon , thou climb’st the skies! “ With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb’st the skies! 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: I read it in thy looks; thy languish’d grace To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me, Is constant love deem’d there but want of wit? Are beauties there as proud as here they be? Do they above love to be loved, and yet Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess? Do they call ‘virtue’ there—ungratefulness? “Astrophel and Stella”, work written by Sir Philip Sidney, is consisted of 108 sonnets. The whole work is interweave with Greek and Latin words and sayings. The title “Astrophel and Stella” carries its meaning.The name Astrophel is made out of two Greek words, aster, which means star and phel, which means lover. The name Stella, in Latin language, means ‘star’, so therefore we have Astrophel who is a star lover and Stella who is the star who Astrophel loves so much.
The sonnet I choose to analyse represents a Shakespearean type of a sonnet, which is composed with the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg.
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Shakespearean sonnets are almost all built from three four-line stanzas, which are referred to as quatrains and a final pair composed in iambic pentameter.On the other hand, we can also say that they are written in a combination of one octet and a sestet. Analysis: “With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb’st the skies! ” Poets usually described the Moon as the lonely companion and ‘someone’ they would groan to, comparing themselves to the Moon because he walks over the sky alone. The Moon is seen as eternal bachelor. Also I would like to point out that when the Moon is seen in the sky, we can see stars, hundreds and thousands of stars (Stella’s) who constantly remind the narrator of her.Adding the letter ‘O’ in front of the Moon, tells us how he might be depressed, calling out ‘O Moon’, as if he is looking for comfort in him.
In one point it could also be seen as if the narrator envied the Moon for being surrounded with those stars, Moons Stellas, having them all just for himself and the narrator not being able to have the one star he craves for. Stella! But the question could also be: Why does the narrator choose the Moon to talk to? He could have chosen to talk to trees, or rocks etc.In my opinion, he deliberately choose the Moon, because at night, when all the rush has calmed, we can open our soles to someone who is like third person, someone who is indirect interlocutor, to whom we can open to and who better than the Moon. “How silently, and with how wan a face! ” Although we can refer to the Moon as the face, which watches upon us with his pale look, he cannot tell the narrator what to do, how to win Stella’s love and that could probably be quite irritating because the Moon is the only one left, the only consolation the narrator has. What! may it be that even in heavenly place That busy archer his sharp arrows tries? ” Then for a second, he exclaims “WHAT! ” as if something drew his attention. The ‘busy archer who sharpens his arrows tries’ is referred to Cupid (who is the God of love) who shoots ‘love arrows’ at people for whom he wants to fall in love with each other. Perhaps the narrator started realising that even on that heavenly place, there are those who are in love.
It seems that he feels as if Cupid is wasting his arrows in a wrong place, for lovers who needn’t been stroke with such an arrow. “Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case:” The ‘long-with-love-acquainted’ is someone who is an experienced lover, and the narrator thinks of himself as one. I notice that he is comparing himself to Cupid, saying that he (the narrator) is, or can be, the ‘judge of love’ (we are introduced to the fact that Cupid is the one who decides on acknowledging love and giving it).In addition, he says that the two of them feel the same and that for both of them are lovers, which, in my opinion could mean Cupid should help him out in some way. “I read it in thy looks; thy languish’d grace To me, that feel the like, thy state descries. ” In this part, he continues addressing the Moon, saying that he can see how crushed he might be as well because as he described him in previous stanzas, he was pale and he was climbing the sky slowly, which was the first reason why the narrator is speaking to the Moon.He saw the Moon as the reflection of himself, as a reflection of his inner state.
“Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me, Is constant love deem’d there but want of wit? ” He continues asking the Moon for an advice, not just any kind of an advice, but the friendly one, for, as I mentioned earlier, he associates himself with the Moon as being very close and kind of intimate (private) with him. Surely, he is still wondering if that constant love craving is perhaps normal, rational, and even smart. “Are beauties there as proud as here they be?Do they above love to be loved, and yet” In these lines, the narrator is probably referring to women. Since this sonnet is mostly written as a dialogue between lovers. It feels as if we can find some pieces of conspiracy agains women, acknowledged as beauties, which may have bigger expectations of suitors. Moreover, having asked all of these questions, the narrator is still trying to get some sympathy from the Moon. “Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess? Do they call ‘virtue’ there—ungratefulness? ”In the end, the narrator starts questioning himself as well as the Moon.
He is now judging his moves. Maybe she despises everything he has done so far. Maybe she found herself offended by all of the actions he took to court her. After all of that thinking he asks himself one question, whether that ungratefulness that those beauties carry within, is rather considered a good quality, because it can send wrong signals. Is she as his beloved so indifferent, because he as her lover is starting to see that act of uncaring really unfair and unworthy.