Mary Sidney Herbert

October 27, 1561- September 25, 1621


A Discourse of Life and Death, translated from the French by Philippe de Mornay. A Discourse of Life and Death, Written in French by Philip Mornay; Antonius: A Tragedie Written Also in French by Robert Garnier. Both done in English by the Countesse of Pembroke. London: printed by J. Windet for William Ponsonby, 1592.
Antonius, translated from Garnier's French version.
The Tragedie of Antonie. Done into English by the Countesse of Pembroke.London: printed by P. (Short for William Ponsonby), 1595. (First published with A Discourse in 1592, separately in 1595)
Antonius. 1595 ed. (Tragedie of Antonie).
"The Doleful Lay" Printed in Edmund Spenser's Astrophel. A Pastoral Elegy Upon the Death of the Most Noble and Valorous Knight, Sir Philip Sidney. London: printed by T. Creede for William Ponsonby, 1595.
"A Dialogue between two shepherds, Thenot and Piers, in praise of Astrea" Printed in A Poetical Rhapsody Containing, Diverse Sonnets, Odes, Elegies, Madrigals, and other Poesies, both in Rhyme and Measured Verse, ed. Francis Davison. London: printed by V. Simmes for J. Baily, 1602. Reprinted 1608, 1611, 1621.
The Psalmes of David (1590s). Manuscript only during her lifetime.
"Even now that Care" and "To the Angel spirit of the most excellent Sir Phillip Sidney" (1590s).
"To the Angel Spirit," an early version by the countess found with Samuel Daniel's papers and erroneously included in The Whole Works of Samuel Daniel Esquire in Poetry. London: printed by N. Okes for Simon Waterson, 1623.
The Triumph of Death (1590s, transcribed 1600), translated from the Italian by Petrarch.

Mary Sidney
Mary Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney

 Sir Philip and Mary Sidney's Relationship

A lot of Mary's writing was inspired by her older brother Sir Philip Sidney. Being 7 years older, it is understandable that Mary looked up to Philip not only as a brother but as literary figure or example to follow. Many of her work are either the completion of his original work (such as the Arcadia or the Psalms) or it is about her brother (like the Doleful Lay of Clorinda). Of course being his younger sister she would always remain in the shadow of such a prominent literary figure as Philip, but within her prose a certain style can be seen and appreciated as her own individual voice.
Her relationship with her brother causes some speculation on how close they really were. Through her poems and writings to her brother one can see that she had great adoration and love for him. The question of how deep their love goes is not directly answered but alluded to in other texts. This subject matter is discussed more on another wikipage here and speculates on the “normal” relationship between siblings at this time period in contrast with Philip and Mary’s relationship.
But because of Philip's fame, Mary is known today and a lot of information of her was better recorded due to being realated to Philip. Once he died it is harded to find as much information on her.

gggggggggggggggggggThe Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia and The Countess of Mountgomeries Urania

The Muses Urania (with a Globe) and Calliope, c. 1634

Lady Mary Wroth was niece to Sir Phillip Sidney. Because of this, she spent the majority of her childhood at her uncle's Penhurst country house in Kent, England. Considered an epicenter for the derivation of influential 17th century literature, Penhurst offered renowned literary works such as Ben Jonson's To Penhurst. To Penhurst represents the distinction between public and counter-public; that is the distinction between court and pastoral. Arguably, To Penhurst dissents King James, and supporting this claim are Ben Jonson's masques which illustrate King James's elaborate nature and the lack of equality within a governing system. Unsurprisingly, the Jonsonian perspective may be found in Lady Mary Wroth's The Countess of Mountgomeries Urania. As Queen Elizabeth I was succeeded by King James I and Queen Anne of Denmark, Lady Wroth's dissent for Queen Anne and King James I is implied. Intrinsically, Sir Phillip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia advocates Queen Elizabeth I. Both Sir Phillip Sidney and Lady Mary Wroth however, utilize the depiction of Urania within their work.


The Doleful Lay of Clorinda: Mary Sidney Herbert's Eulogy for Philip Sidney
A "Lay" is usually songs of love or longing and mourning and often happy, while this one has a completely different tone. This poem was written for Sir Philip Sidney after his death in 1586. It expresses Mary's sorrow at losing her brother. Mary's relationship with her brother is somewhat revealed to us through this poem. She has great regard for him and looks up to him not only as an elder brother but as a superior artist and writer. She speaks of his death as a loss to everyone, especially in the literary world because no one can compare to his genius. Mary obviously had great respect for her brother and his writing which probably fueled her desire to finish his work such as the Arcadia. She refers to her brother as Astrophil, which confirms that these authors see themselves in their characters and use them to mirror their own lives.
Due to Mary’s constant collaboration with and revision of Philip’s work, the question of authorship arises frequently with her contributions. Here, with The Doleful Lay of Clorinda, there is again a questioning of authorship, but this time it is between Edmund Spenser and Mary. Numerous critiques of the poem have named either of these people as the writer, but today it is believed that it is Mary Sidney Herbert’s. The speculations of the critics are interesting to note because they give insight into the credit that Mary was not given for her writing in days past versus the acclaim that she has met in recent times.
One of the themes we have noticed in Mary's writing style is the use of nature. Here she cries out to nature and mentions it throughout the poem. It is interesting how she uses a flower to describe Philip Sidney, which could go along with the idea of Philip being the sensitive gentle nerd type (as discussed in class). Also nature is used to echo her cry, as the poem repeats itself and echos back to her. This is further discussed below in the story of Echo.

The Doleful Lay of Clorinda

Ay me, to whom shall I my case complain,
That may compassion my impatient grief?
Or where shall I unfold my inward pain,
That my enriven heart may find relief?
Shall I unto the heavenly pow’rs its how,
Or unto earthly men that dwell below?

To heavens? Ah, they, alas, the authors were,
And workers of myunremedied woe:
For they foresee what to us happens here,
And they foresaw, yet suffered this be so.
From them comes good, from them comes also ill,
That which they made, who can them warn to spill.

To men? Ah, they alas, like wretched be,
And subjects to the heavens’ ordinance:
Bound to abide wherever they decree.
Their best redress is their best suffereance.
How then can they, like wretched, comfort me,
The which no less need comforted to be?

Then to myself will I my sorrow mourn,
Sith none alive like sorrowful remains:
And to myself my plaints shall back return,
To pay their usury with doubled pains.
The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound
The mournful accent of my sorrow’s ground.

Woods, hills, and rivers now are desolate,
Sith he is gone the which them all did grace:
And all the fields do wail their widow state,
Sith death their fairest flow’r did late deface
The fairest flow'r in field that ever grew,
Was Astrophel; that was, we all may rue.

What cruel hand of cursed foe unknown,
Hath cropped, before it well were grown,
And clean defeaced in untimely hour.
Great loss to all that ever him did see,
Great loss to all, but greatest loss to me.

Break now your garlands, O ye shepherds’ lasses,
Sith the fair flow’r, which them adorned, is gone:
The flow’r, which them adorned, is gone to ashes,
Never again let lass put garland on.
Instead of garland, wear sad cypress now,
And bitter elder, broken from the bough.

Ne ever sing the love-lays which he made:
Who ever made such lays of love as he?
Ne ever read the riddles, to make you merry glee.
Unto yourselves, to make you merry glee.
Your merry glee is now laid all abed,
Your merry maker now, alas, is dead.

Death, the devourer of all world’s delight,
Hath robbed you and reft from me my jou:
Both you and me ane all the world he quite
Hath robbed of joyance, and left sad annoy.
Joy of the world, and shepherds’ pride was he,
Shepards’ hope never like again to see.

O Death, that hast us of such riches reft,,
Tell us at least, what hast thou with it done?
What is become of him whose flow’r here left
Is but the shadow of his likeness gone:
Sacrce like the shadow of that which he was,
Naught like, but that he like a shade did pass.

But that immortal spirit, which was decked
With all the dowries of celestial grace:
By sovereign choise from th’heavenly choirs select,
And lineally derived from angels’ race,
Oh, what is now of it become, aread.
Ay me, can so divine a thing be dead?

Ah no: it is not dead, ne can it die,
But lives for aye, in blissful Paradise:
Where like a new-born babe it soft doth lie,
In bed of lilies wrapped in tender wise,
And compassed all about with roses sweet,
And dainty violets from head to feet.

There thousand birds all of celestial brood,
To him do sweetly carol day and night:
And with strange notes, of him well understood,
Lull him asleep in angel-like delight;
Whilst in sweet dream to him presented be
Immortal beauties, which no eye may see.

But he them sees and takes exceeding pleasure
Of their divine aspects, appearing plain,
And kindling love in him above all measure,
Sweet love still joyous, never feeling pain.
For what so goodly form he there doth see,
He may enjoy from jealous rancor free.

There liveth he in everlasting bliss,
Sweet spirit never fearing more to die:
Ne dreading harm from any foes of his,
Ne fearing savage beasts’ more cruelty.
Whilst we here, wretches, wail his private lack,
And with vain vows do often call him back.

But live thou there still happy, spirit,
And give us leave thee here thus to lament:
Not thee that does thy heaven’s joy inherit,
But our own selves that here in dole are drent.
Thus do we weep and wail, and wear our eyes,
Mourning in other’s, our own miseries

Analyzing "The Doleful Lay of Clorinda"
Through an analysis of the poem, one can come to better understand the relationship between brother and sister and who Mary and Philip were through the eyes of Mary. Throughout the first stanza Mary sets down where her thoughts went upon her brother’s death: can relief be found after his passing? And can this relief come from “heavenly pow’rs” or “earthly men”? (5-6). Mary goes on to question God. She scrutinizes the heavens and puts blame on them for Philip’s death and for her grief. The heavens “the authors were,/ And workers of my unremedied woe:/ For they foresee what happens here,/ And they foresaw, yet suffered this be so” (7-10). This second stanza brings to question the of how Philip’s death may have altered Mary’s views on life and God. She also questions the human race, who she notes are on the same level of powerlessness as herself, all under the power of the heavens.
In stanza four Mary resigns herself to solitary mourning. In this and following stanzas Mary uses an echo as a device for both expressing a connection to nature and giving a sense as to how her sorrow will always return back to her. “And to myself my plaints shall back return,” Mary wrote, “To pay their usury with doubled pains. The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound/ The mournful accent of my sorrow’s ground” (21-24). These lines depict how inescapable her mourning is. More repetition of this sort is seen in stanza six, of “Great loss to all” in lines 35-36, and in stanza 8, with the repetition of “Your merry” in lines 47-48.
The rest of the poem immortalizes Philip and his virtues. It is not just her loss, but a loss for the future of her family and the rest of the world. The world is described as desolate without him, from which we can draw that her life was desolate without him as well. That “the fields wail their widowed state” depicts brings to mind not only that mother nature is widowed by losing Philip, but also perhaps that Mary herself is widowed (27). Her brother, in her eyes, was the “fairest flow’r,” Astrophel (28). That he is “cropped before it were well grown” emphasizes the high expectations that Mary had for her brother’s abilities (32). His death means not only a personal grief, but a grief for the rest of the world in that he will no longer be able to contribute to the literary world. Mary takes up his reigns, completing and revising his psalms and Arcadia, but here expressing that he was the “fairest flow’r,” the best writer, and gone too soon. Mary writes that the “cruel hand of cursed foe unknown/, Hath cropped the stalk which bore so fair a flow’r” in stanza six (31-32). These lines can also be interpreted as lamenting the fact that through the death of Philip the direct descendence ends (Double-check this).
The loss of Philip was a “Great loss to all that ever did see [him]/ Great loss to all, but greatest loss to me” (141). Stressing how close their relationship was, Mary assumes that her loss is the greatest felt, more even than the loss that his wife way have felt at his passing. She goes on to describe the mourning that she expects of the world at having lost Philip and in stanza eight describes some of his contributions to the world, and in so doing describes who he was as a person. Noting his “love-lays” and “riddles” she writes that “he said/ Unto yourselves, to make you merry glee” (43,45-46). He wrote to bring people happiness. With his death comes an end to “merry glee” (47).
Speaking of death in the following two stanzas, Mary questions where talent goes when an artist dies. Addressing death, she asks of the joy that death took from her and the world, wondering “what hast thou done with it?” (56). This is an interesting question given that Mary and so many other relatives went on to use their own talents, all spurred by the death of Philip. Philip’s works are left behind, but they are “but the shadow of his likeness gone” (58).
Despite Mary’s questioning of divinity earlier in the poem, in stanza eleven she introduces a relationship between her brother and the heavens. Philip is “By sovereign choice from th’heavenly choirs select,/ And ,lineally derived from angels’ race,” so his “immortal spirit” is in heaven and “so divine a thing” cannot be dead (63-64, 61, 66). She imagines a beautiful heaven for him, taking an optimistic turn from the sorrow that she expressed in the first half of the poem. Philip is now somewhere where there is “Sweet love still joyous, never feeling pain” (82). After his failed engagement to Penelope and being exiled by the Queen Philip reacted in his writings, with varying degrees of sadness and anger. In death, Mary portrays him as escaping this pain, and perhaps the pain of his death. The lines following this description suggest that the effect that the Queen, and perhaps Penelope, was escaped by Philip once he was in heaven. “For what so goodly form he there doth see,/ He may enjoy from jealous rancor free” (83-84). The envy that he felt towards Lord Rich and towards the court that remained with the Queen during Philip’s exile ends with his death. In death he is “never fearing more to die:/ ne dreading harm from any foes of his,/ Ne… more cruelty” (86-88). Despite imagining that Philip is now in such a good place away from the negativity of his life, she reiterates in this second to last stanza that she still mourns him and wishes that he was alive. The “heaven’s joy” that Philip gains does not keep “our own selves” from pain (93-94).
In conclusion, “The Doleful Lay of Clorinda” expresses many telling things about the Sidney’s. It discusses the close relationships between the siblings, indicating why Mary looked up to Philip and why she may have gone on to complete the works that his talents started. It questions divinity, but in the end returns to trusting in it. It hints at Mary’s awareness of how Penelope and Queen Elizabeth damaged Philip and her gratefulness that he is now free from these women. Mary’s use of nature is shown here in a way that resonates in her other works. The use of the echo in this poem is significant not only for its showing that mythological allusions are as important to her writings as they were to Philip, but because this echo that rebounds her sorrows back to her is much like the echo that she is of her brother.

Echo and Narcissus
Echo and Narcissus

The Countess of Pembroke's ArcadiaThe Arcadia of The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia is continually referred to as being "Sidney's Arcadia," as seen in the titles of many critiques written on the book. Though Philip Sidney created this world and peopled it, another Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, also had a large part in creating it. According to Maurice Evans, Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Permbroke's Arcadia was began "as early as 1577," yet Philip's sister, the Countess of the tome's title, released a final version of the story in 1593 (10,12). Mary not only revised Philip's work, but created something of her own within it.
Thomas Cole, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, 1834
Thomas Cole, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, 1834
(Date when Philip startedBackground of the Arcadia, title's meaning, and it's significance to literatureWhen Mary picked it up How she influenced himHow he influenced herDedication pagesWhy she wrote what she didSpeculations about the writing by criticsRelate to Philip I's pageThemes)

Works Cited