Study Guide

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies! Man and the Natural World

By Sir Philip Sidney

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Man and the Natural World

While this isn't your typical "oh the trees are so beautiful" nature poem, "With How Sad Steps" is about one dude's relationship to the moon, which is part of nature. Astrophel looks at the Moon and decides that it too is suffering from the pains of love. In other words, Astrophel forges an identity between himself and the natural world. Why does he do this? It's not entirely clear, but perhaps he wants a partner in his suffering, perhaps he's curious if the world of nature is as bad as the world of humanity, or maybe he's just gone a little funny in the noggin and is imagining that the moon is just like a person.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What does the speaker achieve by acting as if the moon is suffering as well?
  2. Who, or what, is this poem really about? Astrophel, or the moon? How do you know?
  3. What is the significance of the moon, really? What associations does it conjure? How do those associations work in this poem?
  4. Does the nature described in this poem seem supernatural at all? If so, how?

Chew on This

In times of crisis, we see visions of our own pain everywhere, just like Astrophel sees his own love sickness in the "wan" moon. Bad times.

We may not like to think so, but people and nature aren't so different from another. The speaker and the moon, for example, are practically twins.

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