Loving in Truth


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1. Who is ‘She’ in Sidney’s Sonnet Loving in Truth? What does “Astrophil and Stella” mean?
Ans. On the fictional level, she refers to Stella, the poet’s beloved. On the autobiographical plane, however, Stella is said to have been modelled on Penelope Devereux, who did not reciprocate Sidney’s love and married Lord Rich. ‘Stella’ in Latin means ‘star’, while ‘Astrophil’ in Greek means ‘Star-lover’.

2. Why did the poet seek “to paint the blackest face of woe”?
How did the poet co-relate ‘pain’, ‘pleasure’, ‘knowledge’, ‘pity’ and ‘grace’?
How does the octave deal with the double theme of writing poetry and winning the beloved?
Ans. The poet thinks that the beloved takes pleasure in reading a love-poem that speaks of pain and suffering of the lover. If it be so, she will get interested in his poems, and this will, in turn, provide her information about his sincerity and anguish. This would lead her to pity him. The poet hopes that pity might give birth to love for him in her mind. In this way by writing good poetry the poet plans to win his beloved.

3. Explain the expression, “Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain”.
Ans. The poet in his attempt at winning his beloved through writing poetry feels short of words and expressions poignant enough to convey his suffering and pain. This leads him to look through other poets’ works so as to work out his poem by imitation, a misconception, nonetheless, that does not work. Sidney implies that this was dominant practice during the period.

4. “…if thence flow/ Some fresh…sun-burnt brain”. Why does the poet think that his brain has been burnt by the sun?
Ans. Sidney feels that his intellect or creative faculty has been dried up, as if by the flames of love for his beloved. Just as showers of rain are required to invigorate a perched field, he is seeking some ideas or inspiration that would fertilise his dried up brain.

5. What does the poet want to convey by “Invention; Nature child fled step-dame Study’s blows”?
Or, How does ‘Study’ become “Invention’s stepmother in Sidney’s poetic equation?
Or, What is the literary theory that Sidney implies here?
Ans. Here Sidney poetically introduces Aristotle’s idea of imitation, and distinguishes it from ‘study’, that is, literary imitation. According to Aristotle, art is an imitation of Nature. It follows, therefore, that invention—which is spontaneous artistic creation, is the child of Nature. On the other hand, literary imitation, the product of study, is a secondary derivative activity. Thus study is the step-mother of invention.

6. What is Muse?
Ans. In Greek mythology there were nine goddesses who were considered inspirational forces behind different kinds of fine arts, and they were called Muses. For instance, the muse of poetry was Urania. It was a dominant practice with the Renaissance artists to invoke the aid of the goddess.

7. What does Sidney mean by “blackest face of woe”?
Ans. Here Sidney has personified ‘woe’ in order to convey the sense of extreme unhappiness caused by the love he has for the beloved.

8. Explain the meaning of the word ‘pain’ used by Sidney in the poem.
Ans. The word ‘pain’ has a double meaning here. It refers to the pain felt with out of his love for the beloved, the pangs of a lover. But it also refers to the hardships of creative writing. Sidney implies that writing poetry is not always just inspirational or impulsive but a long struggle with words, emotions and feelings.

9. What does Sidney mean by “Other’s feet still seemed but strangers in my way”?
Explain the pun used in the word ‘feet’ here.
Ans. The word ‘feet’ has a double meaning here. The word ‘feet’ means either the footsteps pf other poets who are being imitated, or metrical units which constitute a poem. What Sidney wants to emphasise here is that writing poetry in imitation of other poets will not help him in his purpose, and he has to be original in both subject-matter and technique.

10. What does Sidney want to mean by the expression “helpless in my throes”?
Ans. Sidney here compares poetical composition or creative writing to giving birth to a child. Both activities involve struggle, suffering and pain. But Sidney’s condition is more precarious since his poetic endeavour stands on the verge of abortion in the absence of a proper inspirational force.

11. “Fool…look in thy heart and write”. Explain the poet’s sudden enlightenment.
Ans. At the closing line of the sonnet, a sudden realisation dawns upon the poet as he reaches the conclusion about the inspiration required to write poetry. He understands that writing poetry in imitation of other poets will not help him in his purpose, and he has to be original in both subject-matter and technique.

12. Do you find any of Sidney’s critical creeds in the poem?
How does the sonnet become a poem about poetic inspiration?
Ans. The last line of the sonnet elicits Sidney’s critical conviction that great poetry does not result from imitation of other poets, but from the spontaneous expression of personal passion. This conviction is much similar to that of the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and others.


1 Comment

  1. whereas sonnets are written in iambic pentametre, this is one of the rare sonnets to be written in a different metre — iambic hexametre or alexandrine. this is a novelty in technique which the poem strives to achieve, along with novelty in theme.

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