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Astrophil and Stella: Sydney’s burning masterpiece. Vivid poetry

We all know: words can be powerful and so is the denotation they carry. Somehow, poetry has always been the mean to express feelings, be they positive or negative, mild or overwhelming. Pain, to be specific, and love, are maybe the most represented sensations, probably because they make our world senseful: we know we are alive because and thanks to them.

Everybody can write a verse, though not everyone later becomes a poet. This is not Philip Sydney’s case: he was a prominent poet all throughout the Elizabethan age, a respectable figure due mostly to his services to the royal family. In the guise of ambassador for Queen Elizabeth I, he was sent to France and once back on the British field again, he met the love of his life (to whom he never got married of course): Mrs. Penelope Devereux. To her, he dedicated his major and most beautiful piece of art: Astrophil and Stella.

It is a sonnet sequence composed of 108 sonnets and 10 songs. The title derives from Greek, with “aster” meaning “star” and “phil” meaning “lover”, and from Latin where “stella” means “star”. From the title it is possible to comprehend the macro-theme of the whole composition, which is love. Very philosophy-patterned, with its narrative it recalls the poet’s point of view in terms of love and desire, while also highlighting the beauty of the art itself. Even though it is used with much freedom, Sydney also makes use of the Petrarchan rhyme scheme.

It is a full representation of the love feeling at its finest, considering all the different shades and nuances it presents: we all know love is not all about flowers and butterflies in your stomach, and so did Sydney. The narrator changes very often, be it Astrophil or even Stella; consequently, love can also be perceived as a killing venom or as a circle of hell.

Scholars often define it as the clearest transcription of love on paper, as the language itself is highly comprehensible, when compared to other poems. Even somebody that does not belong to the poetic field is able to sense and share what Sydney wanted to communicate, which is every poet’s ultimate goal. Astrophil and Stella is love as we all know it, full of imperfections and definitely not standardized. Despite this, it still makes the skin shiver and it still gives real goose bumps. It may break the stereotyped Renaissance love, full of beautiful dresses and forbidden kisses, but here is where the key to its success lies: people are tired of unreachable relationship standards and here comes Sydney putting the whole ideal back on the reality line.

Articolo a cura di: Victoria Pevere

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