“But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay
Invention, Nature’s child, fled stepdame Study’s blows;
And others’ feet still seemed but strangers in my way. (II. 9-11)
These lines are an excerpt from Philip Sidney’s love poem “Loving in Truth“. The poem bears out much of Sidney’s love for Penelope Devereux, daughter of the Earl of Essex, whom he could not marry. In these lines, he showed how his earnest desire to appease the lady leads to a poetic realization.
Disappointment in love has made his mind and brain “sunburnt”. So he sought for such a refreshing shower of inspiration imitating others’ poem, to feed his imagination and write good poetry on his unrequited love for his lady-love. As the poet’s imagination flagged and drooped, and found that in imitating other’s poetry his words became lame and did not march with vigour in the movement of his verse, he had his realization about the true nature of poetry. The poet realized, true poetry is born and not made; and true imagination or invention is the product of nature, innate and spontaneous. The poet’s mind is full of thoughts and feelings which struggle, however, in vain for expression, just as a speechless child tries desperately but vainly to speak out his thoughts.
Thus Sidney’s feeling of love is marked with sincerity. The poet’s deep, true, and sincere love has its expression in the poem from the depth of his feeling. The ring of artificiality so common among the conventional Elizabethan sonneteers is not heard here. The pun in the word ‘feet’ is well applied here.