Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 503
In his classic work, The Country and the City, literary critic Raymond Williams discusses "To Penshurst" as a country house poem in which nature itself does the work, and the creatures of the land freely offer themselves up to be killed for the pleasure of the master:
The purpled pheasant with the speckled side;The painted partridge lies in every field,And for thy mess is willing to be killed.
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
...Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on landBefore the fisher, or into his hand.
The blushing apricot and woolly peachHang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,They’re reared with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat;Where the same beer and bread, and selfsame wine,This is his lordship’s shall be also mine,And I not fain to sit (as some this dayAt great men’s tables), and yet dine away.Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,A waiter doth my gluttony envy
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 575
“To Penshurst” is a 102-line poetic letter written in heroic couplets. It is primarily descriptive and discursive and mimics the pastoral poems of Horace (65-8 b.c.e.) and the invitational poems of Martial (40-103 c.e.). The poem is addressed to Penshurst, the estate home of the Sidney family located in Kent. At the time when the poem was written, Sir Robert Sidney was the head of the Penshurst household; Sir Philip Sidney, the poet and courtier, had died in 1586. While rooted in the physical reality of the actual Penshurst estate, the poem also uses myth and satire.
The poem begins with a negative statement: Penshurst is not, like other country houses, dependent for its reputation upon “polished pillars” or “a roof of gold.” It is admired, but the basis for its stature is the natural and social systems it epitomizes, not its physical structure. The poem divides in half at line...
(The entire section contains 1508 words.)
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