A Defence of Poetry

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An essay by P. Sidney written in 1579–80. Sidney's chief aim was probably to write an English vindication of literature to match the many recently written on the Continent. Two editions of the work appeared posthumously in 1595; one bore the title The Defence of Poesie and the other An Apologie for Poetrie.

Sidney expounds the antiquity of poetry in all cultures. He demonstrates its superiority to philosophy or history as a means of teaching virtue. After defining and distinguishing the ‘parts, kinds, or species’ of poetry, vindicating each in turn, he digresses to England: he sees contemporary poetry as having reached a low ebb, with little to be admired since Chaucer, but affirms with prophetic confidence that major poetry in every genre, including drama, can be written in the English language. A Defence of Poetry is remarkable for the lightness of Sidney's style and the catholicity of his examples, often drawn from experience. The poetic qualities of the essay in themselves illustrate the power of imaginative writing.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Philip Sidney (1554—1586) author and courtier

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