Critically examine Sidney's Defence of Poesie as a valuable contribution to English Literature.

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This essay is notable not only for the depth of argument that it contains as Sidney seeks to defend poetry from its attackers, who, at the time, were manifold. It is also notable for the lightness of his style and the universality of the examples that Sidney gives to support his points, which were often drawn from his own personal experience. Note, for example, the following quote, in which Sidney describes the impact of poetry upon himself:

I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet; and yet is it sung by by some blind crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style.

With this beautiful image, Sidney argues that true poetry, however it is delivered, will always be recognised as inherently valuable. Yet such poetic qualities in this work of Elizabethan prose are what makes it such a valuable contribution to English Literature as a whole, as these poetic qualities demonstrate the power of imaginative writing, as in the following example:

Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done; neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too much loved earth more lovely. Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.

Note how this quote compares the work of Nature and poets, finding that poets are able to make the world more beautiful with their verse. It would be easy to find out the subject matter of this work of prose and to thence dismiss it as lacking in literary qualities, but throughout Sidney demonstrates the kind of poetic language and sensibility that he defines as characterising good poetry, making this a very worthy contribution to English Literature.


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Defence of Poesie

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