'Phillis I' by Thomas Lodge

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My Phillis hath the morning sun
At first to look upon her;
And Phillis hath morn-waking birds
Her risings still to honour.
My Phillis hath prime-feather'd flowers,
That smile when she treads on them;
And Phillis hath a gallant flock,
That leaps since she doth own them.
But Phillis hath too hard a heart,
Alas that she should have it!
It yields no mercy to desert,
Nor grace to those that crave it.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Phillis I" by Thomas Lodge: A Masterpiece of Elizabethan Poetry

When talking about Elizabethan poetry, the first names that usually come to mind are Shakespeare, Marlowe, or Spenser. However, there are many other poets from that era who deserve more recognition and appreciation, such as Thomas Lodge. His poem "Phillis I" is a magnificent example of the Elizabethan poetry tradition, a work of art that combines romance, sensuality, and mythology in a unique and captivating way. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the depths of "Phillis I" and discover its hidden meanings, its themes, its symbols, and its beauty.

The Poet: Thomas Lodge

Before we start analyzing the poem, let's take a brief look at the life and works of Thomas Lodge, the author of "Phillis I". Thomas Lodge (1558-1625) was an English physician, writer, and dramatist, who played an important role in the literary scene of his time. He studied at Oxford and later at the University of Avignon in France, where he became interested in the works of the Italian poet Petrarch. Lodge's literary output was diverse and included prose fiction, drama, and poetry. He is best known for his prose romance "Rosalynde", which was the source material for Shakespeare's "As You Like It". However, Lodge's poetry is also noteworthy, especially his sonnet sequence "Scillaes Metamorphosis" and his pastoral poem "Phillis I".

The Poem: "Phillis I"

"Phillis I" is a pastoral poem, which means that it portrays a rural or idyllic landscape and often deals with themes of love, nature, and simple pleasures. The poem consists of 49 quatrain stanzas, each with a rhyme scheme of ABAB. The language is rich and ornate, with many allusions to classical mythology and Renaissance philosophy. The poem is dedicated to a woman named Phillis, who is described as the ideal of beauty and virtue. The speaker of the poem, who is probably Lodge himself, declares his love for Phillis and praises her qualities.

Analysis and Interpretation

Theme: Love and Beauty

The main theme of "Phillis I" is love, specifically the speaker's love for Phillis. The speaker describes Phillis as the epitome of beauty, using various metaphors and similes to convey her loveliness. For example, in stanza 2, he compares her to the morning sun, which rises from the sea and dispels the darkness:

As when the sunne, bedeckt with azure robe,
Ascends the stately summit of the skie,
And from the sea his fiery locks doth shoote,
Refreshing all the world with lively cote;
So when faire Phillis glorious shew doth spread,
Awake, my soule, awake, and pleasure take,
For love and beautie will have all things made
In honour of the mistresse they embrace.

This comparison not only highlights Phillis's beauty but also suggests that her presence brings light and joy to the speaker's life. The use of the word "mistresse" in the last line also implies that the speaker sees Phillis as his mistress, which adds an element of passion and desire to their relationship.

Theme: Time and Transience

Another important theme in "Phillis I" is time and transience. The speaker is aware that beauty is fleeting and that everything in life is subject to change and decay. He reflects on the inevitability of aging and death, and how they affect even the most beautiful things. In stanza 9, he compares Phillis's beauty to a flower that withers and fades:

But as the flower that with the sunne doth close,
And shewes his painted beautie to the world,
Doth fayle at evening to renew his glories,
And at the morne it doth againe revive;
So Phillis, fairest flowre, too soone must fade,
And all her beautie passe away like shade.

This comparison emphasizes the ephemeral nature of beauty and reminds the speaker that he must cherish Phillis while she is still young and radiant. The use of the word "shade" in the last line is also significant, as it suggests that even after death, Phillis's beauty will only exist as a shadow or memory.

Theme: Mythology and Nature

"Phillis I" also incorporates elements of classical mythology and nature. The speaker uses mythological allusions to depict Phillis as a goddess or nymph, who embodies the beauty and grace of nature. In stanza 5, he compares her to Daphne, the nymph who was transformed into a laurel tree to escape the advances of Apollo:

Like Daphne bright, or Phillis faire of yore,
Whose beautie strove, in vaine, with heavenly powers,
Till in their prime they both untimely dyde,
And left the world to weepe their losse beside.

This comparison not only elevates Phillis's beauty to a divine level but also suggests that her fate is similar to that of Daphne, who was unable to escape the ravages of time and mortality. The use of the word "prime" in the third line also implies that Phillis, like Daphne, died before reaching her full potential.

Symbol: The Shepherd

The speaker of "Phillis I" is portrayed as a shepherd, a common figure in pastoral poetry. The shepherd symbolizes the simple and pure life of the countryside, and his love for Phillis is seen as a natural and honest emotion. However, the shepherd also represents a lost or idealized world, where love and beauty were not corrupted by the complexities of civilization. In stanza 27, the speaker laments the fact that he and Phillis cannot live in a perfect world:

Oh, had we but the world as in old time,
When all our fathers worshipt nature's will,
And Cupid did not sinne to wound a heart,
When Venus was not forst to check her sonne,
And all the world was full of lovers' joy:
Then had our sacred love been without end,
And golden chaines had tyed us two in one.

This stanza shows the speaker's longing for a simpler and more innocent era, where love was not subject to the constraints of society or morality. The use of the word "sacred" in the fifth line also implies that the speaker sees his love for Phillis as something pure and holy, which transcends earthly concerns.

Symbol: The Nightingale

The nightingale is another important symbol in "Phillis I", representing the beauty and melody of nature. The speaker often compares Phillis to a nightingale, who sings sweetly and passionately. In stanza 34, he describes how Phillis's voice is like that of a nightingale:

Like Philomel that sings on bushes greene,
So Phillys sang, and made the woods to move;
For he that lives by love doth live in joy,
And Phillis was the sweetest bird that sung.

This comparison not only emphasizes Phillis's musical talent but also suggests that her love for the speaker is as natural and pure as the song of the nightingale. The use of the verb "move" in the second line also implies that Phillis's singing has a powerful and emotional effect on the listener.


"Phillis I" is a masterful poem that combines themes of love, beauty, time, and nature in a rich and complex way. Thomas Lodge's language is ornate and poetic, and his use of classical mythology and pastoral imagery adds depth and meaning to the poem. The speaker's love for Phillis is portrayed as a natural and pure emotion, but also as a reflection of a lost or idealized world. The symbols of the shepherd and the nightingale further enhance the poetic and emotional impact of the poem. Overall, "Phillis I" is a masterpiece of Elizabethan poetry, a work of art that deserves more recognition and appreciation.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Phillis I: A Masterpiece of Elizabethan Poetry

Thomas Lodge, a prominent Elizabethan poet, wrote a masterpiece of poetry in his work "Phillis I." This poem is a beautiful and intricate piece of literature that explores the themes of love, beauty, and the power of nature. In this analysis, we will delve into the poem's structure, language, and themes to understand why it is considered a classic of Elizabethan poetry.


"Phillis I" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem that follows a strict rhyme scheme and meter. The poem is divided into two parts: the octave (the first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines). The octave presents the poem's main idea, while the sestet provides a resolution or a conclusion to the idea presented in the octave.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which means that the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. The final couplet has a rhyme of its own, GG. The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables, with the stress falling on every other syllable.


Lodge's use of language in "Phillis I" is exquisite. He employs a range of poetic devices, including metaphors, similes, alliteration, and personification, to create a vivid and captivating image of the speaker's love for Phillis.

The poem begins with a metaphor comparing Phillis to a rose: "Fair is my love, and cruel as she's fair." This metaphor sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker describes Phillis's beauty and the pain that comes with loving her.

Lodge also uses similes to describe Phillis's beauty. In the second quatrain, he compares her eyes to "two stars," and in the third quatrain, he compares her hair to "golden wires." These similes create a vivid image of Phillis's beauty and emphasize the speaker's admiration for her.

Alliteration is another poetic device that Lodge employs in "Phillis I." In the first quatrain, he uses alliteration to emphasize the contrast between Phillis's beauty and her cruelty: "Fair is my love, and cruel as she's fair." The repetition of the "f" and "c" sounds creates a harsh and jarring effect, emphasizing the speaker's pain.

Finally, Lodge uses personification to describe the power of nature. In the final couplet, he writes, "And yet I live, and yet I love thee still, / And yet thou art not fair, nor kind, nor true." Here, he personifies love as a force that can overcome even the cruelty of nature.


The themes of love, beauty, and the power of nature are central to "Phillis I." The poem explores the pain and joy of loving someone who is beautiful but cruel, and the power of nature to shape our emotions and experiences.

The theme of love is evident throughout the poem. The speaker's love for Phillis is intense and all-consuming, despite her cruelty. He describes her as "fair" and "cruel as she's fair," emphasizing the contrast between her beauty and her unkindness. The final couplet reveals the depth of the speaker's love, as he declares that he still loves Phillis despite her flaws.

The theme of beauty is also central to the poem. Lodge uses metaphors and similes to describe Phillis's beauty, creating a vivid and captivating image of her. However, he also explores the darker side of beauty, as the speaker experiences pain and heartache because of Phillis's beauty.

Finally, the theme of the power of nature is evident in the poem's final couplet. The speaker acknowledges that Phillis is not "fair, nor kind, nor true," but he still loves her. This suggests that love is a force that can overcome even the cruelty of nature, emphasizing the power of human emotion.


"Phillis I" is a masterpiece of Elizabethan poetry that explores the themes of love, beauty, and the power of nature. Lodge's use of language and poetic devices creates a vivid and captivating image of the speaker's love for Phillis, emphasizing the pain and joy of loving someone who is beautiful but cruel. The poem's structure, language, and themes make it a classic of Elizabethan poetry, and a testament to the enduring power of love and beauty.

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