Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)
ph_0111201584-Sidney.jpg Sir Philip Sidney Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Although Sir Philip Sidney’s best-known work is Astrophel and Stella, his major work and the one to which he devoted most of his literary energy and much of his political frustration was Arcadia (originally titled The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia). This long, much-revised epic prose romance was written and revised between 1578 and 1586; it was first published in an unfinished version in 1590, then in 1593 in a revised and imperfect version, again in 1598, and repeatedly in many editions for more than a century. The equivalent in prose of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), it is an encyclopedic romance of love, politics, and adventure, incorporating many stories and discussions of philosophical, theological, erotic, and psychological issues. Almost as important is Sidney’s critical treatise, Defence of Poesie (1595; published in another edition as An Apologie for Poetry), written about 1580, and setting forth in a seductive, if never quite logically coherent argument, a celebration of the nature and power of poetry, along with some prescriptive (and perceptive) comments on the current malaise of English poetry, drama, and the literary scene generally. Other works Sidney wrote include The Lady of May (pr. 1578), a pastoral entertainment; the first forty-four poems in a translation of the Psalms, later revised and completed by his sister Mary; and a number of other miscellaneous poems, prose treatises, and translations, mainly designed to further the cause of the Protestant faction in Elizabeth’s court.