10. sonnet 75—edmund spenser

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  1. 1. Sonnet 75 Edmund Spenser 15521599
  2. 2. Analysis 1 One day I wrote her name upon the strand, a But came the waves, and washd it away: b Again I wrote it with a second hand, a But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. b Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay b A mortal thing so to immortalize; c For I myself shall like to this decay, b And eke my name be wipd out likewise. c Not so, quod I, let baser things devise c To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: d My verse your virtues rare shall eternize, c And in the heavens write your glorious name: d Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue, e Our love shall live, and later life renew. e Strand = beach Pains = troublesome labors Assay = attempt Eke = also Quod = said Devise = intend Eternize = render immortal Whenas = when The THEME of the poem is related to the idea of attaining immortality through poetry. As with the Spenserian stanza, Spenser created and used his own type of sonnet, namely the Spenserian sonnet. It is formed of an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). It can likewise be divided into three quatrains (groups of 4 lines of verse) and a couplet. Typically, the octave and the sestet present different viewpoints; in a regular Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet, these are identified as the proposition (either a problem or a question) and the resolution, and are separated by the volta (usually in the ninth line), which marks the thematic shift. However, Spenser does not seem to have practiced this style, preferring to use the quatrains and the couplet as separate structures, containing related but slightly different ideas. The rhyme scheme of the Spenserian sonnet is abab- bcbc-cdcd-ee, and it is written in iambic pentameter. Sonnet 75 is part of a larger sonnet cycle known as Amoretti, first published in 1595. Amoretti describes Spensers courtship of and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle. Unlike regular Petrarchan tradition, the sonnets do not deal with unrequited or adulterous love, but with the purity and peace of marriage, or rather of a love that the poet hoped would lead to marriage. Amoretti means little notes or little cupids. Hypercatalexis occurs in line 12, but this may be ascribed to differences in pronunciation. Note that the second and third quatrains, as well as the couplet, begin with a trochaic inversion. This emphasizes the introduction of different ideas and helps to break the monotony of a perfectly regular iambic pentameter. On a deeper level, it conveys Spensers unshakeable faith in his own plan, decking his so-called solution in the third quatrain in the array of an epiphany. The iambic pentameter creates a lilting sound quite suited to the theme of the sonnet. The rhyme scheme, with its interlocking rhymes, makes everything flow, implying that the events that happened on the beach (i.e., the first quatrain) were necessary for Spenser to realize that he would like to immortalize his love.
  3. 3. Analysis 2 One day I wrote her name upon the strand, a But came the waves, and washd it away: b Again I wrote it with a second hand, a But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. b Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay b A mortal thing so to immortalize; c For I myself shall like to this decay, b And eke my name be wipd out likewise. c Not so, quod I, let baser things devise c To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: d My verse your virtues rare shall eternize, c And in the heavens write your glorious name: d Where, // whenas death shall all the world subdue, e Our love shall live, and later life renew. e Alliteration occurs five times, as follows: waves washd (l. 2); pains prey (l. 4); die dust (l. 10); verse virtues (l. 11); and in the last line of the couplet. The first four examples strengthen the images created in their respective linesfor instance, the repetition of the letter w in the second line creates a sound like that of the waves washing across the shore. As for the last example, the alliteration of the letter l slows down the pace of the poem and lengthens the sounds, making one think of immortality. Note that the tide is personified as a man. In poetry, nature is usually given female qualities as women are associated with creation, plenitude, peace, purity, and suchlike. Spensers use of a male pronoun might indicate the fact that nature, in this case, destroys his attempt to immortalize his love. The poet is evidently persistent. This indicates the very human tendency to attempt to make our lives significant, ensuring that we are remembered. The second quatrain presents the idea that mortal things are meant to fade. Note the repetition of the word vain (l. 5): the lady chastises the poet for exhibiting self-importance, and warns that his attempts are doomed to fruitlessness. As for herself, she does not desire fame or immortality. The third quatrain introduces the volta: the poet disagrees with his beloved, arguing that immortality is indeed attainable through poetry, and that the lady is so exquisite that she should not languish in anonymity. The closing couplet provides a summary of the sonnet: all man- made things will perish, but the love of the poet and the lady will always be preserved and remembered, gaining new life (l. 14), whenever the sonnet is read. The caesura emphasizes the juxtaposition of the death (l. 13) of mortal things and the immortal love mentioned in the following line.