Astrophil and Stella

Selected sonnets


Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show, That the dear She might take some pleasure of my pain: Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,

I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,

Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain: Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.

But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,

Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows, And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way. Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
'Fool' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write.'


Queen Vertues court, which some call Stellas face,

Prepar'd by Natures chiefest furniture,
Hath his front built of Alabaster pure;
Gold is the covering of that stately place

The doore by which sometimes comes forth her Grace,

Red Porphir is, which locke of pearl makes sure:
Whose porches rich (which name of cheeks endure)
Marble mixt red and white do enterlace.

The windowes now through which this heav'nly guest

Looks over the world, and can find nothing such,
Which dare claime from those lights the name of best.

Of touch they are that without touch doth touch,

Which Cupids selfe from Beauties myne did draw:
Of touch they are, and poore I am their straw.


On Cupid's bow how are my heartstrings bent,

That see my wrack, and yet embrace the same?
When most I glory, then I feel most shame:
I willing run, yet while I run, repent.

My best wits still their own disgrace invent:

My very ink turns straight to Stella's name;
And yet my words, as them my pen doth frame,
Avise themselves that they are vainly spent.

For though she pass all things, yet what is all

That unto me, who fare like him that both
Looks to the skies and in a ditch doth fall?

Oh let me prop my mind, yet in his growth,

And not in Nature, for best fruits unfit:
"Scholar," saith Love, "bend hitherward your wit."


Fly, fly, my friends, I have my death wound; fly!

See there that boy, that murthering boy I say,
Who like a thief, hid in dark bush doth lie,
Till bloody bullet get him wrongful prey.

So tyrant he no fitter place could spy,

Nor so fair level in so secret stay,
As that sweet black which veils the heav'nly eye:
There himself with his shot he close doth lay.

Poor passenger, pass now thereby I did,

And stayed pleas'd with the prospect of the place,
While that black hue from me the bad guest hid:

But straight I saw motions of lightning grace,

And then descried the glist'ring of his dart:
But ere I could fly hence, it pierc'd my heart.

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