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Poetry Analysis: “Sonnet 75″ by Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser 1

Edmund Spenser

(1552-1599)

Biography and History

Edmund Spenser wrote “Sonnet 75″ during the 16th century in the Elizabethan era. It was written while he was in Ireland. A good portion of his work was inspired by his life in Ireland and the experiences he had while living there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Spenser.

“In early 1595 he published Amoretti and Epithalamion, a sonnet sequence and a marriage ode celebrating his marriage to Elizabeth Boyle after what appears to have been an impassioned courtship in 1594. This group of poems is unique among Renaissance sonnet sequences in that it celebrates a successful love affair culminating in marriage http://www.biography.com/articles/Edmund-Spenser-9490450?part=4 .”

Poem

“Sonnet 75″ from Amoretti

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washed it away;

Again I wrote it with a second hand,

But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.

“Vain man, “said she, “that doest in vain assay,

A mortal thing so to immortalize,

For I myself shall like to this decay,

And eek my name be wiped out likewise.”

“Not so, “quod I, “let baser things devise,

To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:

My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,

And in the heavens write your glorious name.

Where whenas death shall all the world subdue,

Our love shall live, and later life renew.

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Analysis

In this poem Edmund Spenser uses the poetic elements of quatrains, couplets, and a sestet at the end. In the poem the quatrains transition into couplets. The first stanza is a quatrain. The rhyme scheme is ABAB. The speaker uses imagery to convey his feelings for his wife. The speaker is on a beach writing the name of his lover on the sand. It was washed away by the tide. Then he attempted to write it again, but the tide washed it away. He feels that the ocean is taunting him and making him suffer. The water is personified as someone who inflicts pain on the speaker. His wife steps in to tell the speaker that he needs to stop what he is doing and is vain for his efforts. The second stanza is a quatrain with the rhyme scheme of ABAB. His wife says that it is that of mortals to attempt to immortalize that which isn’t in existence any longer. His wife compares herself to the vain attempt of immortality and says that she will “wash away” just like her name was washed away by the tide. The last stanza is a sestet. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC. The speaker doesn’t believe that to be true. He feels that others things should die but she should be able to live forever. Even if death occurs and she does die, she will live forever in infamy. The fame will live on forever in place of her demise. He thinks that what he feels about her and that her values shall live for eternity. Even if his wife dies he feels that she is up in heaven where she belongs. Everyone in the world will eventually have to die. The love between the speaker and his lover shall flourish and begin anew when he comes and meets her in heaven.  In this poem it exemplifies the hero journey stage of “The Return.” In the poem the main character has to return to a place where he feels closest to his wife. The beach is a symbol of where the speaker feels most comfortable and at peace. The speaker can let his feelings out and truly express himself.  

 

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