Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The thirty-first sonnet in the sequence Astrophel and Stella begins with the line “With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies.” Like many other sonnets in this sequence, it is modeled after the form of the sonnet made famous by the Italian poet Petrarch. The poem is made of two main parts, an eight-line “octave” and a six-line “sestet.” The octave rhymes abbaabba, where a represents the first rhyme used and b the second. This scheme is the almost invariable rhyme pattern of the Italian sonnet; the sestet, in this poem cdcdee, permits other variations.
Sidney also follows the traditional form in tailoring the content to the form; it, too, has two parts. In the octave, Astrophel asks the moon, which looks somehow sad to him, whether it, too, is subject to the emotion of love; he uses the traditional figure of Cupid’s arrow, which characteristically wounds lovers. Surely, the moon, having observed many lovers, knows the feeling of unrequited love, and Astrophel judges the moon to be a kindred spirit.
Having established this relationship with the moon, the lover asks a series of questions, the effect of which is to reveal more clearly the sorry state of his love affair. He asks first whether “constant love” on the moon is taken as a lack of “wit” (intelligence). Behind this question lies his perplexity that Stella cannot appreciate his fidelity to her. He asks whether...
(The entire section is 1528 words.)
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