by Edmund Spenser
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I write 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,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.
The Spenserian Sonnet, named after Edmund Spenser features an abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee rhyme scheme. The form is treated as three quatrains connected by the interlocking rhyme scheme and followed by a couplet.
Spenser speaks of his trying to immortalize the woman he loves by writing her name in the sand. He tries to defy nature and reality writing name in a place that is only going to be “washed away” and disappear each time. Therefore, his efforts are in “vain”. He writes it in vain, though vanity plays two separate roles in this poem. By referring to the tide washing the name away, he is expressing a mental and spiritual immortality, and also referring to time and that eventually we will die.
The link below is an interpretation of the sonnet (embedding of the video was disabled).
8 years ago