Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75

Paige Didier

The Author

  • British poet Edmund Spenser lived from 1552/53-1599. His birthday is still disputed.
  • He was born in and died in London.
  • His grave is in Westminster Abbey, near Geoffrey Chaucer, who inspired him.
  • He studied Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Italian, and French at the University of Cambridge.
  • Spenser moved to Ireland in 1580 and lived there until driven out in 1589.
  • Machabyas Childe was his first wife. They had two children, Sylvanus and Katherine.
  • His most famous work is his epic poem "The Faerie Queen", written about his beloved Queen Elizabeth.
  • Fun Fact: Spenser originated the word "faerie" and its new spelling in his epic poem.
  • Another notable work of his is "Amoretti", a sonnet cycle of 89 love poems addressed to his soon-to-be second wife, Elizabeth Boyle. This is where Sonnet 75 is from.
  • His marriage to Elizabeth was celebrated in his ode to her, "Epithalamion". They had a son and named him Peregrine.
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One day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washèd 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 dost in vain assay,

A mortal thing so to immortalize,

For I myself shall like to this decay,

And eek my name be wipèd out likewise."

"Not so, (quod 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."

Summary & Analysis

In the first quatrain, the speaker writes the name of his sweetheart in the sand. But of course, the waves soon wash it away. So he rewrites her name; however, it is to no avail. The tide comes yet again, preying on the speaker's pains (as he puts it).

Next, in the second quatrain, the woman basically says that he's full of himself for thinking he can immortalize her mortal name, and that such an attempt is silly. Then she continues, stating that she, like her name, will eventually be wiped out.

Clearly the speaker does not like her pessimistic view, so he is quick to refute her statements in the third quatrain. He tells his lady-friend that less important things than she will die, but she will live through fame. She shall be eternized in his poetry, which will be written in the heavens, not the sand.

The sonnet then ends with a couplet, in which the speaker replies that death may subdue all of the rest of the world, but will not end their love. It may seem romantic, but it also may prove that the speaker has gotten a little too carried away.

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Spenser uses imagery, personification, alliteration, juxtaposition, and rhyme in this romantic sonnet. The poem is composed of three quatrains, ending with a couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.

The first quatrain:

-It is revealed that the sonnet is written in iambic pentameter.

-Readers are given a seashore for the setting.

-Spenser personifies the tide, making it a predator.

The second quatrain:

-There is dialogue. Dialogue is rare in poetry, but Spenser allows it so the speaker's beloved can speak her mind about the failed romantic attempts.

The third quatrain:

-There are two cases of alliteration.

-Spenser juxtaposes the harsh "d" sounds of "dust" and "die" to the softer "v" sounds of "verse" and "virtues".

Famous Quotes

Carl Carlton - Everlasting Love (Lyrics)



King, John N. "Spenser, Edmund." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

"Overview: 'Sonnet 75'." Poetry for Students. Ed. Sara Constantakis. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Wikipedia. "Edmund Spenser." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Spenser>.

Mitchell, Daniel. "Carl Carlton - Everlasting Love (Lyrics)." YouTube. YouTube, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alDsX-IrNPs>.

Smith, Keith A. "Edmund Spenser: Amoretti, Sonnet #75." Edmund Spenser: Amoretti, Sonnet #75. Harvard EECS Networking Group, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <https://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/amoretti75.html>.

Smith, Keith A. "Edmund Spenser: Amoretti, Sonnet #75." Edmund Spenser: Amoretti, Sonnet #75. Harvard EECS Networking Group, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <https://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/amoretti75.html>.