What are the first and the second themes of sonnet 1 of Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney?

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First and foremost, sonnet 1 of Astrophil and Stella is a poem about poetry, a manifesto for the style of writing we are to find in the sonnet sequence to come. The poet begins with the right idea—that of showing his love in verse—but is swiftly betrayed into false pathos and artificial rhetoric as he seeks to impress and persuade, rather than to communicate what he really feels. The images become ever more tortured until finally the poet is incongruously pregnant with words he cannot deliver: “Great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes.” It is at this point that the Muse returns him to his original intention: “Look in thy heart and write.”

For the role of second theme, there is more competition. It could be love, since this is the subject of Sidney’s poems, and this sonnet begins with “Loving” and ends with writing that comes from the poet’s heart. It could equally well be truth, however, since the poet moves a greater and greater distance from the truth of...

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