Poetry Slam Fridays: Sonnet 31

Hello all! Miss me? This week we begin our sequence of Sonnets from everyone in Songs of Ourselves. This week, we’re visiting the obsessive, the loving, the smothering Sir Philip Sidney! Yes, I’m talking about the author of Astrophel and Stella. Fortunately, we are not reviewing the ahem, creepy songs and sonnets of Astrophel. No, we’re swirling in deep, dark personal, angst.

The Host With the Most: Author Biography

Sir Philip Sidney was born around 1554 to Sir Henry Sidney and his lady Mary. His grandfather was Duke of Northumberland, and he was the heir to the desirous title of earl. This guy, as we say in Ghana, is “dada-bas”. And as all privileged kids have silly problems, his problems found their way into his love life.the Duke of Northumberland and heir presumptive to the earls of Leicester and Warwickthe Duke of Northumberland and heir presumptive to the earls of Leicester and Warwick

Decoration and décor: Tone, Mood, Purpose, Theme

The tone of this poem is as obvious as the black pallor in Sir Sidney’s mansion: dark, edgy, angered. Sir Sidney is truly tortured by his love, but seems to me to blame only himself for his disposition.

Is he stupid to love a married woman? Is his emotional affair leading to something else? I believe that this sonnet’s a way for the narrator to vent out his frustration without fear of offending his lady. Why Penelope? Why do you inspire another Sonnet sequence for us to marvel at?

I may just have to stop reading fan-fics because of you.

Rhythm and Structure

Sonnet 31 obviously has a sonnet structure, but this one’s a little screwy. It’s Sir Sidney’s own style, mixing up the Italian sonnet octave with English sonnet’s quatrain and couplet (refer to Sonnet’s Bonnet for what English sonnet is). The heat-beat structure remains untouched, but this poem has… high blood pressure. From the 3rd line on, you can tell how intensely Astrophil feels for his Stella.

The punctuation in this poem plays a huge role: have you ever seen so many exclamation and question marks used inside the same poem? This is definitely a sign of the narrator’s frustration, anger, and despair. Note the ending quatrain is full of questions…what could be their answers?

Diction and Devices

This poem has a surprisingly free-verse feel despite the fact that it does follow a sonnet structure. This could be because of the poem’s lack of simile and extended metaphor and seems for once to be a simple, lyrical conversation between two things: an opinionated person and a silent listener.

However, I adore two colorful words in this sonnet: ‘languish’d’ and ‘descries’. How many of you guys bothered to look up what these words mean??

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s def:

  • “languish”
    • a. to become feeble, weak, or enervated
    • b. to be in or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality
    • c. to assume an expression of grief or emotion appealing for sympathy.
  • descry”
  • a. to check sight of
  • find out, discover
  • obsolete: to make known: reveal
  • Interesting…these will all link nicely in an essay about the sonnet’s theme, wink *wink*.
  • his love is too extreme to be natural: Cupid, “that busy archer” must cause him to love so deeply without the love being returned.
  • “do they call virtue there ungratefulness?” Is calling her a…not nice word. Or is he chastising himself?The moon, next to the sonnet’s punctuation, is the most important style in the sonnet. The Moon, (not its capitulation) Moon shows very little life. It is light is very dull, although it is very bright. This is an analogy of Sir Sidney’s love, as it walks around with him like a dull wound, although he feels its pain constantly. Wouldn’t you feel this way too if the love of your life married away?
  • Thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry this party’s a little dull, but hey, they can’t all be blowouts. What do you think the narrator is asking the reader? Leave your ideas in the comments below!
  • Apostrophe
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