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Sir Philip Sidney


Annibale Carracci. River Landscape, c1590
Annibale Carracci. River Landscape, c1590.

FROM

  
The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, 1593    
 

[O sweet woods]          

O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness!
Oh, how much I do like your solitariness!
Where man's mind hath a freed consideration,
Of goodness to receive lovely direction.
Where senses do behold th' order of heav'nly host,
And wise thoughts do behold what the creator is;
Contemplation here holdeth his only seat,
Bounded with no limits, born with a wing of hope,
Climbs even unto the stars, nature is under it.
Nought disturbs thy quiet, all to thy service yields,
Each sight draws on a thought (thought, mother of science)
Sweet birds kindly do grant harmony unto thee,
Fair trees' shade is enough fortification,
Nor danger to thyself if 't be not in thyself.

O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness!
Oh, how much I do like your solitariness!
Here nor treason is hid, veilëd in innocence,
Nor envy's snaky eye finds any harbor here,
Nor flatterers' venomous insinuations,
Nor coming humorists' puddled opinions,
Nor courteous ruin of proffered usury,
Nor time prattled away, cradle of ignorance,
Nor causeless duty, nor cumber of arrogance,
Nor trifling title of vanity dazzleth us,
Nor golden manacles stand for a paradise,
Here wrong's name is unheard, slander a monster is;
Keep thy sprite from abuse, here no abuse doth haunt.
What man grafts in a tree dissimulation?

O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness!
Oh, how well I do like your solitariness!
Yet, dear soil, if a soul closed in a mansion
As sweet as violets, fair as lily is,
Straight as cedar, a voice stains the canary birds,
Whose shade safety doth hold, danger avoideth her;
Such wisdom that in her lives speculation;
Such goodness that in her simplicity triumphs;
Where envy's snaky eye winketh or else dieth;
Slander wants a pretext, flattery gone beyond;
Oh!  if such a one have bent to a lonely life,
Her steps glad we receive, glad we receive her eyes,
      And think not she doth hurt our solitariness,
      For such company decks such solitariness.







Source:
A Sixteenth Century Anthology. Arthur Symons, Ed.
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905. 121-122.





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