Astrophel and Stella "That Sweet Enemy, France"

Sir Philip Sidney

"That Sweet Enemy, France"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this series of sonnets interspersed with songs Sidney looks into his own heart and writes of his late-awakened and frustrated love for Penelope Devereux. The sequence was probably written between the marriage of Penelope (Stella) to Lord Rich and that of Sidney (Astrophel) to Frances Walsingham two years later. These sonnets and songs do not tell a story with a "plot," but are individual flashes of crystallized introspection; they are generally considered to be among the greatest love poems in the English language. In Sonnet XLI the poet alludes to his excellent performance in a tournament but insists that the cause of his excellence was not what the spectators thought it to be:

Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtain'd the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy, France;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance,
Townfolks my strength; a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight which from good use doth rise;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them who did excel in this,
Think nature me a man-at-arms did make.
How far they shot awry! The true cause is,
Stella look'd on, and from her heav'nly face
Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.