Saturday Sonnet.

The translator (whose translation I have ignored) felt that there needed to be a footnote about Cato. Sydney is referring to Cato the elder: there were two such who were censors: one during the Punic war and one during the decline of the Empire. He was a stoic, an person who argued for duty and for virtue.

He talked about righteousness without the power to change. Sydney is lost from any rigour, because of desire. The ancients would have called him a fool. But Sydney has read too many bad poets and listened to far too many songs of the troubadours. He is arguing from courtly love. Where there is no scold’s bridle, and no need for duty, or reality.

Stella and Astrophil

Virtue, alas, now let me take some rest.
Thou set’st a bate between my will and wit.
If vain love have my simple soul oppress’d,
Leave what thou likest not, deal not thou with it.

Thy scepter use in some old Cato’s breast;
Churches or schools are for thy seat more fit.
I do confess, pardon a fault confess’d,
My mouth too tender is for thy hard bit.

But if that needs thou wilt usurping be,
The little reason that is left in me,
And still th’effect of thy persuasions prove:

I swear, my heart such one shall show to thee
That shrines in flesh so true a deity,
That Virtue, thou thyself shalt be in love.

Sir Philip Sydney.

Virtue is not love. That is now an ancient lie, supported by various supreme courts.

For I am with Cato: only those who can leave their uxorious instincts alone will manage to destroy the Carthage of their time.

Leave a Reply