1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 13-14.



From an original Picture in the Collection of Charles Cholmondley Dering, Esq.

What shall be said of SIR PHILIP SIDNEY? — That he was the gentlest knight and noble? That he lives like a fiction in the memory, — "the glass of fashion and the mould of form?" That he was a gallant and a hero, before Bayard or St. Foix; tuning his voice to music, sweeter than was ever sung beneath the moonlit towers of Spain, and fighting beyond

The knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore?—

We really know not — We despair altogether of doing him justice. It is utterly inimical to all sober reflection, that we should give ourselves up to such a reputation as that of Sir Philip Sidney. His courage, his skill, his grace, his almost fabulous beauty, enchant so much the imagination, that when we descend to mere human feature, and ordinary couplets, we are apt to resent our old belief as an imposition practised on our youth. What is there in the proud mouth or Roman nose of Sidney, to beget the adoration of his cotemporaries? What is there in his Arcadian verse, to make us forget the man, and lift him to the gods? Surely, nothing. Yet he had a fine presence, and an undoubted nobility upon him. His songs are the songs of an accomplished lover: his deeds were the deeds of a hero; and he trod from his cradle to his grave amidst incense and flowers, and died in a dream of glory. He was truly the knight "without fear and without reproach." Envy itself never glanced upon him: and, indeed, it is, perhaps, his greatest merit that he could run so brilliant (though so brief) a career, without a shadow to cross his path, and without leaving one foe behind him.