'Astrophel And Stella-Sonnet LIV' by Sir Philip Sidney

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Because I breathe not love to every one,
Nor do not use set colours for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair,
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them who in their lips Love's standard bear,
"What, he!" say they of me, "now I dare swear
He cannot love. No, no, let him alone."—
And think so still, so Stella know my mind!
Profess indeed I do not Cupid's art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
That his right badge is worn but in the heart.
Dumb swans, not chattering pies, do lovers prove:
They love indeed who quake to say they love.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Astrophel And Stella-Sonnet LIV: A Masterpiece of Love and Heartbreak

As I read through Astrophel and Stella-Sonnet LIV, I couldn't help but marvel at the raw emotions and poetic brilliance of Sir Philip Sidney. This masterpiece of love and heartbreak has captivated readers for centuries with its powerful imagery, vivid description, and heart-wrenching narrative. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, style, and symbolism of this sonnet, and unravel its hidden meanings and messages.

Background Information

Astrophel and Stella, published in 1591, is a sonnet sequence of 108 sonnets and eleven songs, written by Sir Philip Sidney. The sequence is a romantic narrative of the love affair between Astrophel (Sidney himself) and Stella (a pseudonym for Penelope Devereux). The sequence chronicles Astrophel's pursuit of Stella, her rejection of his love, and his eventual acceptance of her decision. Sonnet LIV is the fifty-fourth sonnet in the sequence, and one of the most popular and widely discussed.


The central theme of Sonnet LIV is unrequited love and the pain and anguish that comes with it. Astrophel is still hopelessly in love with Stella, even though she has rejected him and married another man. He longs for her affection and dreams of a time when they can be together, but he knows that it is impossible. He is tormented by his love for her and the knowledge that he can never have her.

Another theme that runs throughout the sonnet is the power of beauty and its ability to inspire love and passion. Stella is described as "the wonder of the world" and her beauty is compared to the sun. Her beauty is so great that it inspires Astrophel to love her, even though he knows that his love is hopeless.


The style of Sonnet LIV is typical of Sidney's writing, with its use of elaborate imagery, metaphors, and wordplay. The sonnet is written in iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The use of enjambment throughout the sonnet creates a sense of flow and movement, and adds to the sonnet's emotional intensity.

Sidney also uses a number of poetic devices to create vivid images and convey his message. For example, he uses personification to describe the sun as "envying" Stella's beauty, and metaphor to compare her to a "golden fleece." The use of these poetic devices adds to the sonnet's beauty and complexity, and makes it a pleasure to read and analyze.


Sidney uses a number of symbols throughout Sonnet LIV to convey his message and deepen the sonnet's meaning. One of the most prominent symbols is the sun, which is used to represent Stella's beauty and power. The sun is described as "envying" Stella's beauty, which suggests that her beauty is so great that even the sun is jealous of it. This symbolizes the power and allure of beauty, and its ability to inspire love and passion.

Another symbol that Sidney uses is the "golden fleece," which is used to describe Stella's beauty. The golden fleece was a symbol of power and wealth in ancient Greek mythology, and it represents the value and importance of Stella's beauty in Astrophel's eyes. By using this symbol, Sidney emphasizes the importance of beauty in love and courtship, and highlights the pain and anguish that come with unrequited love.


The interpretation of Sonnet LIV is complex and multi-layered, and depends on the reader's personal perspective and experience. However, one possible interpretation is that the sonnet is a meditation on the nature of love and its ability to inspire both joy and pain. Astrophel's love for Stella is genuine and passionate, but it is also painful and unfulfilled. His love for her is so great that it consumes him, and he cannot escape the pain of his unrequited love.

However, despite the pain and anguish that Astrophel experiences, he recognizes the power and beauty of Stella's love. He knows that her love is something to be cherished and celebrated, even if he cannot have it for himself. In this sense, the sonnet is a celebration of the power and beauty of love, even in the face of heartbreak and disappointment.


Astrophel and Stella-Sonnet LIV is a masterpiece of love and heartbreak, and one of the most powerful and moving sonnets in English literature. With its use of elaborate imagery, vivid description, and heart-wrenching narrative, it has captivated readers for centuries and continues to inspire awe and admiration. Through its themes of unrequited love, the power of beauty, and the nature of love itself, it explores the complex and multi-layered emotions of human relationships and the pain and joy that come with them. As a literary work, it is a testament to the power and beauty of poetry, and to the ability of language to capture the deepest and most profound emotions of the human heart.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Astrophel and Stella-Sonnet LIV: A Masterpiece of Love Poetry

Sir Philip Sidney, the renowned Elizabethan poet, wrote a series of 108 sonnets that are considered one of the greatest achievements of English Renaissance literature. The sonnets, titled Astrophel and Stella, were published posthumously in 1591, and they explore the themes of love, desire, and the complexities of human relationships. Sonnet LIV, in particular, is a masterpiece of love poetry that captures the essence of unrequited love and the pain of rejection.

The sonnet begins with the speaker addressing his beloved, Stella, and expressing his frustration at her indifference towards him. He laments that his love for her is unrequited and that she is oblivious to his feelings. He says, "O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem / By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!" Here, the speaker is acknowledging that Stella's beauty is enhanced by her honesty and integrity, which he admires. However, he also feels that her beauty is wasted on someone who does not appreciate it fully, namely himself.

The second quatrain of the sonnet continues the theme of unrequited love and the speaker's frustration at Stella's indifference. He says, "The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem / For that sweet odour which doth in it live." Here, the speaker is comparing Stella to a rose, which is beautiful but even more so because of its fragrance. He is saying that Stella's beauty is enhanced by her inner qualities, such as her kindness and intelligence, which he finds attractive. However, he also feels that he cannot fully appreciate her beauty because she does not reciprocate his feelings.

The third quatrain of the sonnet takes a darker turn, as the speaker begins to question the nature of love and the pain it can cause. He says, "The canker blooms have full as deep a dye / As the perfumed tincture of the roses." Here, the speaker is saying that even the most beautiful things can be marred by imperfections, just as love can be tainted by rejection and heartbreak. He is acknowledging that his love for Stella is causing him pain and that he is struggling to come to terms with it.

The final couplet of the sonnet brings the poem to a close, with the speaker expressing his hope that Stella will one day realize the depth of his love for her. He says, "And love is love in beggars and in kings, / Where rivers smoothest run deep, and deepest peales / Singing stayd notes to the same streame belong." Here, the speaker is saying that love is universal and that it can be found in all walks of life, regardless of social status or wealth. He is also saying that true love is like a river, with a smooth surface but a deep current, and that it is a constant presence in his life, just like the singing of a peal of bells.

Overall, Astrophel and Stella-Sonnet LIV is a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of unrequited love and the pain of rejection. The speaker's frustration and despair are palpable, and his hope for a future reconciliation with Stella is both poignant and heart-warming. The poem is a testament to Sidney's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the complexities of human emotion in a few short lines. It is a classic of English Renaissance literature and a must-read for anyone interested in the art of love poetry.

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