Dr. Strachan is always alert for the 'breath and finer spirit,' and he knows that without it charity and knowledge and good doctrine can never become good poetry. But equally he knows that without conviction the 'breath and finer spirit itself becomes but a marsh-light signifying nothing. And it is good for poetry and the poets again to be tested by a mind so liberal and so composed.


Still crowned with bays each ancient altar stands



Sidney's reputation as a poet may be said to rest chiefly on his sonnet sequence, 'Astrophel and Stella. Although in the 'Arcadia' and among the miscellaneous work may be found isolated poems of great beauty, it was when writing ‘Astrophel and Stella' that the poet set aside all thought of his ill-considered theories of poetical technique of which more hereafter - ceased to think of versemaking as a pleasant and polished accomplishment, and wrote with fire and passion as all true poets write, to ease his mind. The few comments which may be offered concerning this his greatest work may be held to apply, broadly speaking, to his less considerable achievements. At the outset, however, it will be well to glance briefly at the state of English poetry at the time when Sidney was writing, and incidentally to clear away such obstacles as his classical experiments which may hinder us in the consideration of his most notable contribution to poetical literature.

We of to-day, looking back on our great line of poets, from Chaucer to Swinburne, find it not a little difficult to adjust our point of view to that of a man born in 1554. Such a one, given the guiding instinct, would see in Chaucer the first and solitary

« VorigeDoorgaan »