A DOUBLE SESTINA / Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)



Ye goatherd-gods, that love the grassy mountains;

Ye nymphs, which haunt the springs in pleasant valleys;

Ye satyrs, joyed with free and quiet forests;

Vouchsafe your silent ears to plaining music,

Which to my woes gives still an early morning,

And draws the dolor on till weary evening.



O Mercury, forgoer to the evening;

O heavenly huntress of the savage mountains;

O lovely star, entitled of the morning;

While that my voice doth fill these woeful valleys,

Vouchsafe you silent ears to plaining music,

Which oft hath Echo tired in secret forests.



I, that was once free burgess of the forests,

Where shade from sun and sport I sought in evening;

I, that was once esteemed for pleasant music,

Am banished now among the monstrous mountains

Of huge despair, and foul affliction’s valleys;

Am grown a screech owl to myself each morning.



I, that was once delighted every morning,

Hunting the wild inhabiters of forests;

I, that was once the music of these valleys,

So darkened am that all my day is evening;

Heartbroken so that molehills seem high mountains,

And fill the vales with cries instead of music.



Long since, alas, my deadly swannish music

Hath made itself a crier of the morning,

And hath with wailing strength climbed highest mountains;

Long since my thoughts more desert be than forests;

Long since I see my joys come to their evening,

And state thrown down to over-trodden valleys.



Long since the happy dwellers of these valleys

Have prayed me leave my strange exclaiming music,

Which troubles their day’s work and joys of evening;

Long since I hate the night, more hate the morning;

Long since my thoughts chase me like beasts in forests,

And make me wish myself laid under mountains.



Meseems I see the high and stately mountains

Transform themselves to low dejected valleys;

Meseems I hear in these ill-changed forests,

The nightingales do learn of owls their music;

Meseems I feel the comfort of the morning

Turned to the mortal serene of an evening.



Meseems I see a filthy cloudy evening

As soon as sun begins to climb the mountains;

Meseems I feel a noisome scent, the morning,

When I do smell the flowers of these valleys;

Meseems I hear, when I do hear sweet music,

The dreadful cries of murdered men in forests.



I wish to fire the trees of all these forests;

I give the sun a last farewell each evening;

I curse the fiddling finders-out of music;

With envy I do hate the lofty mountains,

And with despite despise the humble valleys;

I do detest night, evening, day, and morning.



Curse to myself my prayer is, the morning;

My fire is more than can be made with forests,

My state more base than are the basest valleys;

I wish no evenings more to see, each evening;

Shamed, I hate myself in sight of mountains,

And stop mine ears, lest I grow mad with music.



For she whose parts maintained a perfect music,

Whose beauties shined more than the blushing morning;

Who much did pass in state the stately mountains,

In straightness past the cedars of the forests,

Hath cast me, wretch, into eternal evening,

By taking her two suns from these dark valleys.



For she, with whom compared, the Alps are valleys;

She, whose least word brings from the spheres their music;

At whose approach the sun rose in the evening;

Who where she went bore in her forehead morning,

Is gone, is gone, from these our spoiled forests,

Turning to deserts our best pastured mountains.



These mountains witness shall, so shall these valleys;



These forests eke, made wretched by our music;



Our morning hymn is this, and song at evening.