Astrophil & Stella

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Phil lived just up the road from here in the little village of Penshurst. In a lot of ways he was a lot like you or me. On Saturdays he’d mow the lawns of the Estate. On Sunday mornings he’d give his trusty steed a darn good scrubbing.

Phil was a bit of a Renaissance Man. A soldier. An academic. A sportsman. A poet. By all accounts he was also a bit of a dish. In his youth he fell in love with a girl called Penny and devoted a whole wadge of poems to her – Astrophil & Stella.

It was at the Battle of Zutphen he received what turned out to be a fatal bullet wound. When offered water he declined, passing it to another injured soldier uttering the now legendary words – ‘Your need is greater than mine.’

Sir Philip Sidney was the first commoner to receive a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral. His wife Frances, baby daughter Elizabeth, the Royal Court and the public in general mourned his passing as a national treasure.

Here’s a bit of verse –

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That She, dear She, might take some pleasure of my pain,—
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn’d brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention’s stay;
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows;
And others’ feet still seem’d but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”

This is for Stella…