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Analysis of Sonnet 75 by Edmund Spencer

Sonnet 75 was written by Edmund Spencer, a famous English writer who popularized special sonnets named after him. This poem has a typical Spencerian structure that includes three interlocked quatrains, early Volta, and a couplet that provides a solution. It has a more complex rhyme system than the typical English sonnet: ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. A scene is described in which a speaker writes the beloved woman’s name on the beach that is washed away by the tide. Although his lover tells him that she will not live forever, the lyrical voice continues to labor on. He eventually suggests that love has the power to endure in contrast to the world’s baser things. Although physical love is temporary, spiritual love can last forever with art’s assistance.

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This poem belongs to a sonnet cycle Amoretti fragmented into 89 short sonnets. It mainly depicts the stages of Spencer’s courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle, his second wife. The whole poem’s name itself means “little cupids” or “little loves,” hinting at its content. The sequence describes the gradual progression of their relationships, the English poet’s wooing of Boyle with Sonnet 75 occurring more towards the end. They are already in love here, and the lyrical voice is concerned about something more complicated – the nature of love and immortality. Although the tone of the dialogue is depressed at the begging, the speaker ends it with an inspiring and hopeful tone.

By writing Elizabeth’s name upon the strand repeatedly, Spencer tries to immortalize his true love. However, it seems that the high tide of the sea makes his efforts vain. In this case, the image of the sand and waves symbolizes the inevitable mortality of the world and human beings. Nevertheless, the speaker believes in the power of literary art and devoted love to immortalize someone in his verse. The sincere love itself, rather than his ladylove, will last forever. The idea that rare virtues of love and art endure the mortal blow of time provides an allusion to Shakespear’s claims expressed in his well-known Sonnet 18. Although the speaker recognizes the inevitability of death, he continues to confront it, showing the strength of his feelings.

In terms of literary devices, Spencer uses alliterations and metaphors, among others. For instance, the latter is applied in the fourth line where “pains” and “pray” contribute to a repetition of the same sound. A similar occurs with the words “devise,” “die,” and “dust” in lines nine and ten. The author introduces an extended metaphor that lasts the entire poem by using the image of a wave that constantly eliminates his writings on the sand. It symbolizes the destructive power of time and the mortality of “baser things” (Spencer 9-10). Spencer personifies the waves by saying they “made my pains his prey” to emphasize the theme (Spencer 4). What is more, line nine is cut off before its natural stopping point is continued in line ten. This poetic technique is called enjambment and creates additional tension for the reader at least before he/she encounters the word that clarifies the meaning.

To conclude, Sonnet 75 is an excellent example of Spencerian poems known for their unique structure. Although this sonnet is simple and short, it has a beautiful melody and imagery that glorifies both love and the power of art. Everything in the world and earthly creatures are deemed to end their days sooner or later. Spencer believes in the renewing power of love and his art that can eternalize the virtues of his lover. The poem ends with the author’s firm faith in the immortality of the spiritual love within his verses.

Work Cited

Spencer, Edmund. “Sonnet 75: One day I wrote her name.” Poetry Foundation.

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