Samuel Daniel – Delia

I read my self-assigned portion yesterday, but then I got distracted by other stuff and forgot to write the post. The first version of Daniel’s Delia was published in one volume with the pirated version of Astrophil and Stella. Sidney’s family got the book withdrawn, but apparently something attracted their attention in Daniel’s poetry, because he was as bold as to dedicate the second version of Delia to the Countess of Pembroke and then Mary Herbert hired him to be her son’s tutor. Since he kept on working on Delia and added new sonnets, some critics believe the Delia of the cycle may be Mary Herbert, but we have no proof for that.

So Delia is yet another sonnet sequence, addressed to a rather abstract beloved, represented by three sonnets in the NAEL. They are English sonnets, consisting of three quatrains and the final couplet. Sonnet 33 imagines the situation when old Delia looks in her mirror and sees her beauty gone. But the poet’s love is going to last forever and it is going to be like miraculous fire that burns without fuel, which, on second thoughts, is a kind of admission that it is woman’s physical beauty that makes her lovable. Then Delia may repent she scorned her lover, as the pIoet hopes.

In Sonnet 45 the poet invokes Sleep, Death’s brother, to grant him the forgetting of his suffering. The day is enough for him to mourn his misspent life and his unrequited love. He does not want his dreams to tease him with the desires which torment him during the day. The sonnet ends with the wish “never to wake to feel the day’s disdain”, which is essentially a death wish and reminds one once again about the opening lines about Sleep being the brother to Death.

Sonnet 46 says that other poets may engage in writing of the epic verse, celebrating the heroes of the times past, but the poet can only sing about Delia. (Daniel in fact did write an epic poem about the War of the Roses.) In the future these poems are going to make him and Delia immortal. They are like arks or monuments, preserving the memory of Delia’s beauty and virtue. Even though they may show the poet’s love was the error of his youth, they at least are a testimony that he lived and was her lover.

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