Sir Philip Sidney, in his work of literary criticism “An Apology for Poetry,” discusses the antiquity and universality of poetry, arguing that it is an art form that has been present in all societies throughout history and has universal appeal.
Sidney begins by stating that poetry is not a modern invention but rather an art that has been practiced by all civilizations throughout history. He traces the origins of poetry to the earliest human societies, which used oral traditions to pass down their myths, legends, and histories. He also notes that poetry has been used for various purposes, including religious rituals, celebrations, and entertainment.
Sidney then argues that poetry has a universal appeal that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. He contends that although different societies have different literary traditions, they all share a common love of poetry. He writes, “Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done, neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too much-loved earth more lovely.”
Sidney also discusses the power of poetry to convey moral and ethical lessons in a memorable and impactful way. He notes that poetry has the ability to move people emotionally and can inspire them to act virtuously. He writes, “So, as much as in them lieth, they [poets] know their duty who, coupling goodness with sweetness, and applying themselves to men’s noblest parts, which is the mind, do thereby not only seek to draw us to live rightly, but also choose the aptest way to teach it.”
In addition, Sidney argues that poetry has a unique ability to capture the essence of human experience, both in terms of individual emotions and universal themes. He writes, “For whatsoever affections we have in ourselves, whether love, sorrow, rage, fear, hope, or whatsoever, we may see them lively set forth in the mirror of poetry.” He contends that poetry can help people understand themselves and their place in the world, and can provide a sense of comfort and solace in difficult times.
Sidney’s view on the antiquity and universality of poetry has been influential in the study of literature and literary theory. His belief in the enduring appeal of poetry and its ability to convey important ideas and emotions has inspired many writers and scholars throughout history. Additionally, his defense of poetry as a noble and worthy art form has helped to establish its place in the canon of literature and has contributed to the ongoing appreciation of poetry in society.