- 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 (quoth 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,
- Out love shall live, and later life renew.
Title: Spenser’s Sonnet 75
Author: Edmund Spenser
Rhyme scheme/sonnet type: Spenserian sonnet (ABAB BCBC CDCD EE)
Meter check: iambic pentameter
This sonnet seems to be about the author’s attempts to immortalize his wife or the love of his life. Spenser starts the poem with a quatrain recalling an incident that could have happened any summer day at the seaside. He writes his love’s name in the sand at the beach, but the ocean’s waves wipe it away, just as time will destroy all manmade things. The next quatrain describes the woman’s reaction to the man’s charming attempt to immortalize her. She claims that the man’s attempts were in vain and that no mortal being can be immortalized due to the cruelness of time. The next quatrain represents a turning point in the poem and the author reveals that his wife will be eternally remembered in his poems and his verse. The final couplet at the end, “Where whenas Death shall all the world subdue, Out love shall live, and later life renew,” summarizes the theme of the poem by comparing the eternalness of love and death to the brevity of life and humanity.
Spenser uses the rhyme scheme of this poem to create a contrast between earthly ideas and objects that will eventually be destroyed and heavenly ones that will last forever. The first two quatrains focus on the author’s vain attempts to write his wife’s name. Time and nature are shown to destroy the author’s manmade works and his attempts are thwarted. The author then switches gears and shows how he immortalized his wife in the very poem he is writing. Spenser uses a very melodic rhythm and iambic pentameter to create a calm and pleasant sounding poem. His frequent use of alliteration such as, “die in dust” and, “verse in virtue” helps to paint the complete picture of the poem and tie the themes of the poem together.