Critical Appreciation of Come Sleep O'Sleep |Poems by Philip Sidney


  In the Elizabethan literature, Sir Philip Sidney occupies an unrivalled place as a person of many fold talents. Besides being a novelist and a critic, his eminence in literature is found also as a poet. A sonnet series, named "Astrophel and Stella", containing 108 sonnets and 11songs was published posthumously in 1591.

Composed on the theme of Sidney's courtship with Penelope, named as Stella here, this sonnet sequence contains the beating of the lover's pulse, in suspense and expectation and the inner conflict between will and wit and passion and reason.

Critical Appreciation of Come Sleep O'Sleep |Poems by Philip Sidney

Come Sleep O'Sleep by Philip Sidney is sonnet 39 in his "Astrophel and Stella". This lyrical poem is a manifestation of the poets state of intense suffering due to his unrequited love and the resultant sleeplessness.
In this poem, the poet with an intension to get relief from his sufferings, invoked sleep to come to him. Shakespeare remember this sonnet in his play "Macbeth" - where sleep is similarly invoked. Kenneth Muir writes of this sonnet, 'From the point of view of poetic artistry, it is one of Sidney's finest achievements'. 

Personification of Sleep

Sleep is here personified and the poet invokes it to come to him for his unrequited love makes him wretched and miserable. Sleep should bring the soothing balm to heal his sufferings and misery. Sleep is praised as the feeding and the resting place of wise where it nourished and strengthen them, thereby provides them with peace and rest. 
Again, sleep is the wealth of the poor and the release of the prisoners from his sufferings. Sleep, thus, soothes the suffering soul of the rich and poor impartially.
Having praised sleep in the first quartrain, the poet now praised to him and to protect it like an impenetrable shield from the arrows which despire shoots at him in large numbers.
The poet invokes sleep to come to him and put an end to the mental conflict that causes so much sufferings to him. The poet will pay it rich tributes if it does this favour to him.

Compliments to Stella

The poet is ready to renounce all his physical comforts if this would please sleep and make it favour him with his blessings. He is ready to give to sleep his soft pillow, comfortable bed, his noise proof and completely dark room. He would also renounced the rosy garland of silence that he wears round his head, tired and miserable.
But if even all this is not enough to him for its favour, and to make his eyes feary with sound sleep, then sleep would peep into his heart to see a more life like an image, that of Stella enshrined here.
The poet is assured that the image of Stella would please it, and make it favours him and bring the soothing balm of sleep to his suffering soul. Thus, the poet concludes the poem with a couplet in which he pays a rich complement to Stella.

Sidney's sonnet is characterized by a mood of sadness and sufferings that is reinforced by the slow movement of the first line. Like the poem 'With how sad steps, O'moon', this poem too creates a mood of lethargy that befits a person intoxicated by the pangs of unfulfilled love.
The poet appears to be an escapist in the truest sense as he hopes to escape from the suffering of his life by entering into a sort of contract with the impartial sleep.

Structure of the Poem

The structure of the sonnet is Shakespearan with the usual rhyme scheme. There is a cross alliteration in the second line, bw bw.  The poets use of the personification of Sleep and Despire is also to be noted


Thus, Sidney heighten the situation as much as he can within the 14 lines of the sonnet formed. According to Kenneth Muir, "The images are not particularly original, but they fitted into the form of the sonnet with exquisite skill, so there is no padding and no forcing. It is art which hides art".

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