Philip Sidney

English poet, courtier, diplomat (1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney (November 30 1554October 17 1586) was an English courtier, soldier, poet and romancer. He was a friend and patron of Edmund Spenser, whose poetry he deeply influenced. During his own lifetime he attracted extraordinary admiration throughout Europe as the model of a Christian knight and chivalrous gentleman.

"Fool," said my Muse to me, "Look in thy heart and write."


  • My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
    By just exchange, one for the other given.
    • "My true love hath my heart, and I have his".
  • And thou my minde aspire to higher things;
    Grow rich in that which never taketh rust.
    • Sidney, Sonnet. Leave me, O Love. Quote reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 419-23.
  • Thy necessity is yet greater than mine
    • Allegedly spoken after the Battle of Zutphen, when offering water to an injured peer, though himself gravely wounded.[1]

Quotations are cited from the edition of Maurice Evans (1977)

  • They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts.
    • Book 1. Compare: "He never is alone that is accompanied with noble thoughts", John Fletcher, Love's Cure, act iii. sc. 3.
  • Open suspecting others comes of secret condemning themselves.
    • Book 1, page 144.
  • Many-headed multitude.
    • Book 2. Compare: "Many-headed multitude", William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, act ii. sc. 3.; "This many-headed monster, Multitude", Daniel, History of the Civil War, book ii. st. 13.
  • Who shoots at the mid-day sun, though he be sure he shall never hit the mark, yet as sure he is he shall shoot higher than who aims but at a bush.
    • Book 2, page 253.
  • A fair woman shall not only command without authority but persuade without speaking.
    • Book 3, page 485.
  • ....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."
    • Sonnet 1,Concluding couplet from Loving in truth,and fain in verse my love to show
      Compare: "Look, then, into thine heart and write", Henry W. Longfellow, Voices of the Night, Prelude.
  • Have I caught my heav'nly jewel.
  • Come sleep, O sleep, the certain knot of peace,
    The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
    The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
    The indifferent judge between the high and low.
    • Sonnet 39, line 1.
  • That sweet enemy, France.
    • Sonnet 41, line 4.
  • Stella, think not that I by verse seek fame,
    Who seek, who hope, who love, who live but thee;
    Thine eyes my pride, thy lips mine history:
    If thou praise not, all other praise is shame.
    • Sonnet 90.

Quotations are cited from the edition of Geoffrey Shepherd (2002)

  • Sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge.
    • Page 39.
  • There have been many most excellent poets that never versified, and now swarm many versifiers that need never answer to the name of poets.
    • Page 87.
  • The historian…loaden with old mouse-eaten records, authorizing himself (for the most part) upon other histories, whose greatest authorities are built upon the notable foundation of hearsay; having much ado to accord differing writers and to pick truth out of partiality; better acquainted with a thousand years ago than with the present age, and yet better knowing how this world goeth than how his own wit runneth; curious for antiquities and inquisitive of novelties; a wonder to young folks and a tyrant in table talk, denieth, in a great chafe, that any man for teaching of virtue, and virtuous actions is comparable to him.
    • Page 89.
  • With a tale forsooth he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney corner.
    • Page 95.
  • Certainly, I must confess my own barbarousness, I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet.
  • Poetry, a speaking picture... to teach and delight
    • From 'Tracing Aristotle's Rhetoric' in Defense of Poesy 1581.
  • The poet...nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.
    • Page 103.


  • In the sweetly constituted mind of Sir Philip Sidney, it seems as if no ugly thought or unhandsome meditation could find a harbour. He turned all that he touched into images of honour and virtue.
    • Charles Lamb "Characters of Dramatic Writers, Contemporary with Shakspeare", in Thomas Hutchinson (ed.) The Works in Prose and Verse of Charles and Mary Lamb (1908) vol. 1, p. 70.
  • Hard-hearted minds relent and rigor's tears abound,
    And envy strangely rues his end, in whom no fault was found.
    Knowledge her light hath lost, valor hath slain her knight,
    Sidney is dead, dead is my friend, dead is the world's delight.
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