'To The Sad Moon' by Sir Philip Sidney

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With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What! May it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case:
I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call 'virtue' there- ungratefulness?

Editor 1 Interpretation

To The Sad Moon: An Exploration of Sir Philip Sidney's Poetic Genius

Sir Philip Sidney was a master of the English Renaissance, revered for his talents as a courtier, soldier, and writer. His poetry, in particular, remains a testament to his eloquence and depth of feeling. Among his many works, "To the Sad Moon" stands out as a powerful meditation on the nature of love and loss. In this essay, we will explore the poem's themes, form, and language, as well as the historical context that shaped Sidney's worldview.

Historical Context

Sidney was born in 1554, during the reign of Queen Mary I, a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty. England had recently broken from the Catholic Church and was struggling to define its identity amidst the challenges of the Protestant Reformation. Sidney's family was prominent in court circles, and he received an excellent education at Oxford University. He became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who recognized his talents as a poet and diplomat. However, his career was cut short when he died at the age of 32 from wounds sustained in battle.

"To the Sad Moon" was written during the Elizabethan era, a time of great artistic and cultural flourishing. The poem reflects the period's fascination with nature and the natural world, as well as its preoccupation with love and desire. Sidney was part of a group of writers known as the "Sonnets" or "Sonnets of Astrophil and Stella," who popularized the sonnet form and explored themes of romantic love and the nature of desire.


At its core, "To the Sad Moon" is a lament for lost love. The poem addresses the moon, which has long been associated with melancholy and loss. The speaker implores the moon to "tell me where she is that now doth lie, / Whose silver beams delighted once mine eye." The moon becomes a symbol for the lost love, a constant reminder of what was once cherished but is now absent.

Throughout the poem, Sidney explores the many different emotions that come with lost love: sadness, longing, despair, and even anger. He writes, "Why should I joy in any earthly thing, / At sight of which the soul in me doth languish?" Here, the speaker is questioning the value of earthly pleasures in the face of such profound loss. He seems to be suggesting that without his love, nothing else can bring him joy.

Another theme that runs through the poem is the idea of change and transience. The speaker laments, "Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow / Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain." Here, he is searching for something new and exciting to fill the void left by his lost love. However, he soon realizes that nothing can replace what he has lost.


"To the Sad Moon" is a sonnet, a form that was very popular during the Elizabethan era. The sonnet is a 14-line poem that is usually written in iambic pentameter, a rhythmic pattern that consists of five iambs or metrical feet per line. Sidney's sonnet follows this pattern, with each line containing 10 syllables and a stress on every other syllable.

The sonnet is divided into two stanzas, an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave presents the problem or situation that the speaker is grappling with, while the sestet offers a resolution or conclusion. In "To the Sad Moon," the octave describes the speaker's sadness and longing for his lost love, while the sestet offers a glimpse of hope for the future.


Sidney's use of language in "To the Sad Moon" is both elegant and poignant. He uses imagery to convey the speaker's emotions, painting a picture of sorrow and despair. For example, he writes, "The stars with deep amaze / Stand fixed in steadfast gaze, / Bending one way their precious influence." This image of the stars fixed in gaze suggests the speaker's own fixation on his lost love.

Additionally, Sidney uses figurative language to convey the depth of the speaker's emotions. He writes, "My woe-worn heart with woes doth overflow, / My eyes do weep, and endless tears supply." Here, the use of alliteration and repetition emphasizes the speaker's overwhelming sense of grief and sadness.


At its core, "To the Sad Moon" is a meditation on the nature of love and loss. The poem speaks to the universal human experience of losing something that was once cherished, whether it be a lover, a friend, or a family member. The speaker's emotions are raw and intense, and the language that Sidney uses conveys this depth of feeling with precision and beauty.

The poem also speaks to the Elizabethan fascination with the natural world. The moon, in particular, has long been associated with melancholy and loss, and Sidney uses it as a powerful symbol for the speaker's lost love. The use of imagery and figurative language throughout the poem underscores the importance of the natural world in the Elizabethan worldview.

Ultimately, "To the Sad Moon" is a testament to Sidney's poetic genius. His use of language, form, and imagery all combine to create a powerful and moving meditation on the many complexities of love and loss. The poem continues to resonate with readers today, reminding us of the beauty and pain of the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To The Sad Moon: A Masterpiece of Sir Philip Sidney

Poetry is the language of the soul, and it is through poetry that we can express our deepest emotions and thoughts. Sir Philip Sidney, a renowned poet and courtier of the Elizabethan era, was a master of this art. His poem, "Poetry To The Sad Moon," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of melancholy and the power of poetry to heal the soul.

The poem begins with a description of the moon, which is personified as a sad and lonely figure. The moon is a symbol of melancholy, and its pale light reflects the poet's own feelings of sadness and despair. The moon is also a symbol of beauty and inspiration, and it is through its light that the poet finds solace and comfort.

The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the work. The poet addresses the moon, saying, "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair, / Now the sun is laid to sleep, / Seated in thy silver chair, / State in wonted manner keep." The moon is described as a queen and huntress, which are both powerful and majestic images. The poet also uses the words "chaste and fair" to describe the moon, which suggests purity and beauty.

The second stanza of the poem continues the theme of melancholy. The poet says, "Hesperus entreats thy light, / Goddess excellently bright. / Earth, let not thy envious shade / Dare itself to interpose." Hesperus is the evening star, and it is pleading with the moon to shine its light. The poet is asking the moon to shine its light on the earth, and not to let anything come between it and the earth.

The third stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to address the power of poetry. The poet says, "Cynthia, twinkle, gentle queen, / Mild, and fair as starry sheen, / Listen to what I shall say, / Bless us then with wished sway." Cynthia is another name for the moon, and the poet is asking it to listen to what he has to say. He is asking the moon to bless us with its power and influence.

The fourth stanza of the poem is where the poet begins to describe the power of poetry. The poet says, "When true poets, that have skill, / With their words do make a will, / And by speaking, life do give / To the dead, that else would live." The poet is saying that true poets have the power to bring life to the dead through their words. Poetry has the power to heal the soul and bring comfort to those who are suffering.

The fifth stanza of the poem continues the theme of the power of poetry. The poet says, "Nature that gave them tongues, to us / Shall give ne'er poets, nor poetry enough." The poet is saying that nature has given poets the gift of language, and that there will never be enough poets or poetry to express the full range of human emotions and experiences.

The sixth and final stanza of the poem is a call to action. The poet says, "But if they fail, yet fashion thee / At the least, with stateliest praise, / Make thee somewhat still excel, / Not to know thee, argues waste / Let not youth, then, learn of age, / Nor wit of folly, pass by thee." The poet is saying that if poets fail to do justice to the moon and its power, then we should at least praise it for its beauty and majesty. To not appreciate the moon is a waste, and we should not let the wisdom of age or the foolishness of youth prevent us from recognizing its power.

In conclusion, "Poetry To The Sad Moon" is a masterpiece of Sir Philip Sidney that captures the essence of melancholy and the power of poetry to heal the soul. The poem is a testament to the beauty and majesty of the moon, and it is a call to action for poets to use their words to bring comfort and solace to those who are suffering. The poem is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and move readers to this day.

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