Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In this 102-line poem, the poet begins by explaining how Penshurst, the estate of the Sidney family, is unlike the houses around it. He states that it is not opulent and does not have the marble or fine stairs of showier estates. However, he says of the estate, "of soil, of air,/Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair." In other words, the estate is blessed by nature, and the first half of the poem is dedicated to extolling the bounty and natural plentitude of the estate.
In lines that bear the marks of pastoral odes, the poet explains that the estate has fine walks and great trees. He goes on to catalogue the game and cattle that roam in the estate and that provide food for its inhabitants, the ponds that are leaping with fish, and the orchards whose trees bear ample fruit.
In the middle of the poem, he describes the walls that divide the land from the house and writes of them, "There’s none that dwell about them wish them down." No one wishes the walls did not exist, and all are welcome in the house, including farmers and "the clown." The poet describes the gifts that the local people bring to the house, but he says that these gifts are unnecessary, as the lord and lady of the estate offer hospitality to all who enter. Guests are never begrudged extra food here, and the waiters bring them everything they want. King James and his son, the poet states, were welcomed here when they found themselves lost when hunting in the nearby woods. The lady of the house is gifted at running the estate, and it's always well prepared for guests. In addition, the lady of the house is "chaste," and the lord, unlike many, knows that the children are his own. The children of the house are taught religion and proper behavior, using their parents as examples. For all these reasons, Penshurst stands above other estates.