Discuss Sydney’s view on the antiquity and universality of poetry.

Introduction: The antiquity and Universality of poetry are coined by Sidney (1554-1586) in his prominent essay “An Apology for Poetry”. Sidney fixes his goal to defend poetry from the allegations of the Puritans. The term “Antiquity and Universality” of poetry refers to the primitiveness of poetry and acceptance of poetry generation after generation.

Arguments of Sidney: In his essay, Sidney has discovered the antiquity and universality of poetry. He has limned his logics in various ways to antiquity and universality of poetry with due references. His logics are recounted here.

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Evaluation on different nations and their writers: Sidney’s discovery as to the antiquity and universality of poetry rests on his evaluation on different nations and their writers.

In the noblest nations and languages that are known, it hath been the first light given to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards the tougher knowledges.

To prove his logic, Sidney provides historical references like Aristotle. His evaluation on sundry nations are illustrated in the following manner:

Greeks: First of all, Sidney argues that the first writers of the Greeks like Musaeus, Homer and Hesoid are poets. Greece cannot produce any book if there is no existence of poetry in the early stages.

Nay, let any history be brought that can say any writers were there before them

Romans, Italians and Barbarous nations: Among the Romans like Livius Andronieus and Ennius were the first great Romans gave poetry to Rome. In the Italian language, Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch were the earliest poets. In English Language, Chaucer and Gower were the acceptable writers who were in fact poets. In Barbarous nations like Red-Indians, poets are found.

Thus, the antiquity of poetry is proven and at the same time it is universal because the validity of the referred poets is still green and will remain ever green.

Existence of poetry before philosophy and history: Sidney is genius to make it transparent that the earliest philosophers appeared in the guise of poets. He mentions the name of several philosophers, Solon who was a political philosopher and Plato, who were essentially poets since their discourses or disquisitions were highly eloquent and poetical language. Sidney discloses the concealed mode of writing of the historians. According to him, the historians borrowed their mode of writing from poetry. That is why the matter of fact is that neither philosophers nor historians could have achieved much popularity if they had not employed poetic methods and modes of writing.

Reference of theology: Sidney has shown the antiquity and universality of poetry referring to theology. David’s Psalms, Solomon’s song of songs, the Ecclesiastes, the proverbs, the hymns composed by Moses and Deborah and the Book of Job, all these examples of divine poetry are found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Thus, Sidney means to say that the origin of poetry from the time of Adam and Eve.

“It cometh of this word Poiein, which is to make wherein I know not whether by luck or wisdom, we English men have met with the Greeks in calling him ‘a maker’.”

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Conclusion: From the light of the above discussion, it can be asserted that the term “Antiquity and Universality” of poetry is out and out proved. By this term, Sidney has been able to establish that poetry was existed, it is still existed and will remain forever.

Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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