SIR PHILIP SIDNEY, AN APOLOGY FOR POETRY (1595) Sidney, Sir Philip. “An Apology for Poetry.” Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adam s. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1971. 143-162.
Sidney’s argum ent is divided into several sections and subsections. In order to m ake sense of this im m ensely long but im portant essay, you should read those sections m arked by an asterisk (*) below and in the order given: 1. From “Now then we go to the m ost im portant imputations laid to the poor poets” (p.154) to “ . . . Plato banished them out of his com m onwealth.” (p.154): Sidney’s brief listing of the four m ain criticism s directed against poetry * C a subsection devoted to providing brief answers (expanded considerably in the other sections listed below) to these criticism s: from “First, to the first, . . .” (p.154) to “. . . the clear springs of poesy.” (p.158)
From “Am ong the Rom ans a poet was called vates . . .” (p.144) to “ . . . a principal recom m endation.” (p.146): Sidney’s response to criticism #2 – his view of the poet as prophet and ‘m aker’ of things, and poetry as a form of im itation * From “Poesy therefore is an art . . .” (p.146) to “ . . . have a m ost just title to be princes over the rest.” (p.147): Sidney’s response to criticism s #1 and 3 -- his views on the beneficial m oral im pact of poetry * C there is also a not unim portant subsection devoted to a defence of the various genres of poetry--pastoral, elegy, comedy, tragedy, lyric poetry, heroical (epic): from “By these, therefore, exam ples and reasons . . .” (p.151) to “ . . . yielding or answering.” (p.154) there is also a brief subsection devoted to a defence of the usefulness of rhym ing and versification in poetry: from “Those kinds of objections . . .” (p.154) to “ . . . any m an can speak against it.” (p.154). there is also a long and som ewhat tedious section devoted to the failures of English poetry by recounting English literary history up his tim e: from “But since I have run so long . . .” (p.158) to the end (p.162)
From "W herein we can show the poet’s nobleness . . ." (p.147) to " . . . Psalm of Mercy well testifieth." (p.151) and from “And first, truly, to all them that professing learning inveigh against poetry . . .” (p. 143) to “. . . scourged out of the church of God.” (p.145): Sidney’s response to criticism #4: his defence against Plato’s call to banish poets from and only retain philosophers and other serious learned people in his ideal state by : C outlining the pedagogical superiority of poetry to both philosophy and historiography where the teaching of morality is concerned: from “Wherein we can show the poet’s nobleness . . .” (p.147) to “ . . . Psalm of Mercy well testifieth.” (p.151) * stressing the inherently poetic nature of philosophy, historiography, and the Bible: from “And first, truly, to all them that professing learning inveigh against poetry . . .” (p. 143) to “. . . scourged out of the church of God.”
Richard L. W. Clarke LITS2002 Notes 01
(p.145) (All references are to the version of Sidney’s essay found in Hazard Adam s, ed. Critical Theory Since Plato.)
From “Now then we go to the m ost im portant im putations laid to the poor poets” (p.154) to “ . . . Plato banished them out of his com m onwealth.” (p.154): Sidney’s Preview of his Argum ent Here, Sidney briefly lists the four m ain criticism s directed against poetry. Som e argue, he writes, that it is: C less im portant than “other m ore fruitful knowledges” (154), C the “m other of lies” (154), C the “nurse of abuse, infecting us with m any pestilent desires” (154), m aking m any nations, including Britain, effem inate and unm anly, distracting its m en from m ore m anly pursuits like war, and C it was banished from Plato’s ideal state. From “Am ong the Rom ans a poet was called vates . . .” (p.144) to “ . . a principal recom m endation.” (p.146)...