Philip Sidney


The Defence of Poesie






Poesie therefore, is an Art of Imitation: for so Aristotle termeth it in the word μίμησις, that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth to speake Metaphorically. A speaking Picture, with this end to teach and delight. Of this haue bene three generall kindes, the chiefe both in antiquitie and excellencie, were they that did imitate the vnconceiuable excellencies of God. Such were Dauid in his Psalmes, Salomon in his song of songs, in his Ecclesiastes and Proverbes. Moses and Debora, in their Hymnes, and the wryter of Iobe: Which beside other, the learned Emanuell, [C2r] Tremelius, and F. Iunius, doo entitle the Poeticall part of the scripture: against these none will speake that hath the holie Ghost in due holie reuerence. In this kinde, though in a full wrong diuinitie, were Orpheus, Amphion, Homer in his himnes, and manie other both Greeke and Romanes. And this Poesie must be vsed by whosoeuer will follow S. Paules counsaile, in singing Psalmes when they are mery, and I knowe is vsed with the frute of comfort by some, when in sorrowfull panges of their death bringing sinnes, they finde the consolation of the neuer leauing goodnes. The second kinde, is of them that deale with matters Philosophicall, either morall as Tirteus, Phocilides, Cato; or naturall, as Lucretius, and Virgils Georgikes; or Astronomicall as Manilius and Pontanus; or Historicall as Lucan: which who mislike the fault, is in their iudgement quite out of tast, & not in the sweet food of sweetly vttered knowledge. But bicause this second sort is wrapped within the folde of the proposed subiect, and takes not the free course of his own inuention, whether they properly bee Poets or no, let Gramarians dispute, and goe to the third indeed right Poets, of whom chiefly this question ariseth: betwixt whom and these second, is such a kinde of difference, as betwixt the meaner sort of Painters, who counterfeyt onely such faces as are set before them, and the more excelent, who hauing no law but wit, bestow that in colours vpon you, which is fittest for the eye to see, as the constant, though lamenting looke of Lucretia, when shee punished in her selfe another faulte: wherein hee painteth not [C2v] Lucretia whom he neuer saw, but painteth the outward bewty of such a vertue. For these third be they which most properly do imitate to teach & delight: and to imitate, borrow nothing of what is, hath bin, or shall be, but range onely reined with learned discretion, into the diuine consideration of what may be and should be. These be they that as the first and most noble sort, may iustly be termed Vates: so these are waited on in the excellentest languages and best vnderstandings, with the fore described name of Poets. For these indeed do meerly make to imitate, and imitate both to delight & teach, and delight to moue men to take that goodnesse in hand, which without delight they would flie as from a stranger; and teach to make them know that goodnesse whereunto they are moued: which being the noblest scope to which euer any learning was directed, yet want there not idle tongues to barke at them. These be subdiuided into sundry more speciall denominations. The most notable be the Heroick, Lyrick, Tragick, Comick, Satyrick, Iambick, Elegiack, Pastorall, and certaine others: some of these being tearmed according to the matter they deale with, some by the sort of verse they liked best to write in, for indeed the greatest part of Poets, haue apparelled their poeticall inuentions, in that numbrous kind of writing which is called vers. Indeed but apparelled verse: being but an ornament and no cause to Poetrie, since there haue bene many most excellent Poets that neuer versefied, and now swarme many versefiers that need neuer answere to the name of Poets.





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The defence of poesie. By Sir Phillip Sidney, Knight.
London: Printed for VVilliam Ponsonby. 1595.

Unpaginiert. Unser Auszug: C1v - C2v

Online-Ausgabe: Exemplar British Library, STC (2nd ed.) / 22535
Proquest. Early English Books Online.




Kommentierte Ausgaben





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Bates, Catherine: On Not Defending Poetry. Defence and Indefensibility in Sidney's Defence of Poesy. Oxford 2017.

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