Critical Appreciation of Spenser's Sonnet No. 75 in Amoretti (One day I wrote her name upon the strand)

"So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught."

Edmund Spenser (1552? - 1599)
Spenser’s Amoretti, a finest specimen of Elizabethan sonnets, is addressed to Elizabeth Boyle whom Spenser marries later. Thus his is the Amoretti a saga of love, without sin or remorse, its changing fortune, and the sighs of the lover until lies accomplishment and final joy. Though we do not find in Spenser’s sonnets Sidney’s unquietness or Shakespeare’s complaint against his mistress, his Sonnet No. 75 (One day I wrote her name upon the strand) highlights a traditional question of transience and permanence.

The problem of time & a dramatic situation:
Sonnet No. 75 carries out a discussion on the problem of time and transient world and the permanency of love, en route writing poetry of magnum opus. The sonnet is also noted for its dramatic texture. Read More Poetry Though the lyrical and dramatic are two contradictory terms, Spenser brings about a magnificent harmony between them. Here Spenser speaks of his own subjective approach regarding writing poetry. But his sonnet is devised through a dramatic situation and a dialogue between him and his beloved.

Mutiny against time & a poetic win:
The sonnet begins in a perfect romantic setting where the poet-lover and his beloved are sited on the sea shore in amorous mood. In the meantime the poet writes his beloved’s name on the sandy beach, the sea waves comes and washes it away. As the lover repeats the task, the waves do the same. Read More Poetry The ladylove watches this tug of war inquisitively and relishes the merry situation. The lady at last raises the voice of protest by saying that hers is ordinary, trail, fragile and transitory creature and neither the name nor her personae can claim to do beyond death. Thus; 
            “Vayne man”, sayd she,“that doest in vaine assay,
            A mortall thing so to unmortalize,

            For I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
            And eek my name bee wiped out likewise”.
Though the ladylove is doubtful and even disdainful, the poet with firm conviction declares that his love shall triumph over death and live ever through. Being romantic and idealist, the poet asserts that the gross, insignificant and sordid things might be the part of transient world, but his beloved is a fulsome personality, a subject of immortality-
            “Not so”, quod I, “Let baser things devize
            To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame”

There is no fallacy, no hogwash in the poet’s contention. In fact, here is a poetic devize. Read More Poetry Mortality might be cul-de-sac of human world bringing inevitable catastrophe, but the world of human art has the way to permanence. Thus the poet wishes to articulate the love to his dear in his poetry of artistic excellence. The poetry, he thinks, will renew their love beyond their physical years –
            “My verse your virtues rare shall eternize”.
            And in the heavens wryte your glorious name.
            Where when as death shall all the world subdew,
            Our love shall live, and later life renew”.

Spenserian devise of triumph of poetry over time and by the process the glorification of love is a traditional way of thinking. Read More Poetry Shakespeare dares the verse
            “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
            So long lives this and this gives love to thee”.
                                                                                    (Sonnet No. 18)
 Keats too by the viewless wings of poesy wishes to defeat the transitory world. None the less Spenser is here original for its perfect blend of dramatic mood and indomitable passion of love.

Now Try to Answer These Questions:
  • Do you think the introduction of dialogue in Sonnet No. 75 makes the poem more dramatic than lyrical?
  • My verse your virtue rare shall eternize – Bring out the essence of the above statement.
  • Spenser provides a beautiful dramatic setting in his Sonnet No. 75 (Amoretti). Do you agree?
  •  How does Spenser connect the theme of love with the theme of immortality? Do you think the argument of the poem convincing?

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