spensers sonnets analysis

During the Elizabethan age, love sonnets were usually written by men communicating their love for unattainable women and displaying courtly love. However, Spenser’s Petrarchan sonnets from the Amoretti sequence break conventional love poetry in many ways and challenge the usual pessimist look at love to give it a buoyant look. Spenser then sets his own approach of love to the Amoretti sequence by describing his courtship and eventual marriage to the object of his love, Elizabeth Boyle. In sonnet 75, Edmund Spenser affirms that his love will not be ephemeral and that it will be immortalized through verse.

By examining and analyzing this sonnet, the concept of love relates to the way it is portrayed in the whole Amoretti sequence. Through a genuine consummation of passion, recovery and persistence of the self, intense awareness of death, and immortalized love, Spenser invokes sixteenth century matters which try to delineate a new kind of married love. Firstly, Spenser’s poetical theories differ from conventional love sonnets of the time. Appropriating Petrarch (1304-1374), he found new deviations and pushed original standards to newer boundaries.

With his different approach of the love sonnet, the unattainable married mistress becomes the woman who is free and with whom the poet’s “erotic nature can be aroused without dishonour. ”? Petrarch’s followers and many other poets of this century were longing for a sexually unavailable lover, bringing a conflict between spiritual and physical love because it is adulterous. Spenser’s Amoretti sequence was dedicated to the woman he won. Also, the sinful and forbidden love represented in traditional love sonnets was unstable and the speaker’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts presented conflicts and narcissism within the author.

Because the beloved rejected the poet endlessly, reconciliation of spiritual and physical love is not possible and the poet’s internal problems are never resolved. “While Petrarch finds some semblance of resolution in rejection of physical love and the subsequent death of his beloved, and Renaissance Petrarchism tends to ignore resolution and glorify the state of indeterminacy, Spenser finds his own unique solution. ”2 Amoretti sets away the selfishness of Petrarchan love situations and shows the Protestant conception of marriage, where spiritual and physical love coexist together.

In Sonnet 75, Spenser recognizes that his love with his beloved, Elizabeth, can be immortalized with time while she accuses him of vanity for ignoring his own mortality as a human. Equating her with God, he demonstrates that spiritual and eternal love can only be achieved through time. The unadulterated love within Spenser’s Amoretti sonnet sequence, including sonnet 75, sets a warily argued opposition between earthly and heavenly things. Secondly, in sonnet 75, addressed to his wife, Edmund Spenser declares trying to give their love immortality and believes that by writing down this poem, it will be eternalized in time.

In a step-by-step argument throughout lines 6 to 14 of the sonnet, his beloved advocates otherwise. Spenser states that her beauty will disappear with time, but his poetry will preserve its’ delicacy without time touching or diminishing it. The sonnet’s first four lines of the octet describe the action of the sea, but also the ineffectiveness of his writing since Spenser’s efforts are metaphorically consumed by the waves (“made my paynes his pray”) (Amoretti, 75. 4). It here shows how all the time he put into writing her name in the sand is devoured.

The second four lines of the octet quote his beloved saying “For I my selve shall lyke to this decay” (Amoretti, 75. 7), meaning that she would be destroyed by time like his words written on the strands. She also recognizes that mortality is unavoidable in the Christian religion, but Spenser consequently then makes an overt reference to Christian resurrection by stating that “later life renew” (Amoretti, 75. 14),. In the sestet, Spenser claims that his beloved, his poetry and her excellence will conquer mortality, will be remembered forever and that their legacy will continue through his verse.

Even though death conquers all and everyone, as long as poetry is still read, Spenser’s deep love for Elizabeth Boyle and her virtue will be immortalized. By using a calm language and by wanting to immortalize and spiritualize their love, sonnet 75 relates to love in the Amoretti sequence. Thirdly, Spenser’s sonnet 75 shows his persistency to obtain the immortality of the object of his profound love. It is primarily demonstrated with his consistent use of alliterations such as “waves and washed” (Amoretti, 75. 2), “wrote it with” (Amoretti, 75. 3), “paynes his pray” (Amoretti, 75. ), “dy in dust” (Amoretti, 75. 10), “verse your vertues” (Amoretti, 75. 11), “Wheres whenas” (Amoretti, 75. 13), “love shall live” (Amoretti, 75. 14) and “later life” (Amoretti, 75. 14). The repetition of the consonant at the beginning of the words relate to his will of achieving. It is also represented when Spenser writes his beloved’s name in the sand and it gets washed away. The sonnet states that he writes it again, but it gets erased a second time (“Agayne I wrote it with a second hand, But came the tyde”) (Amoretti, 75. 3), showing that he will not give up.

The erasing cycle by the waves also refers to the cyclical action of the waves in the ocean. Using old conventions as a way to explore the new and introducing dialogues in his sonnets show the complexity of his writing and how everyday Spenser challenged his mind and himself to create. Since the Amoretti sequence was written after Spenser’s marriage to Boyle, the sonnets illustrate their love life and how he conquered and married her, therefore, the authors’ persistency is showed amongst the multiple sonnets of the sequence. In conclusion, sonnet 75 by Edmund Spenser relates carefully to his whole Amoretti sequence.

By trying to immortalize his dearly loved Elizabeth and access spiritual love, Spenser connects time with divine and eternal love. He challenges the permanence of writing itself and is tenacious through his words and actions. He employs the Petrarchan sonnet in a new way and reinvents a genuine love between a woman and man, without the forbidden aspects of the traditional sonnets of the sixteenth century. His and many other poets’ writings of the Elizabethan age confirm how literature and art commands a strong impact on love and other aspects of one’s life.

Works Cited

1 Knapp, James F. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Fifth Edition, 2005. Web. 2 Jan. 2010 2 Dasenbrock, Reed Way. “The Petrarchan Context of Spenser’s Amoretti.” PMLA, Vol. 100, No. 1. Jan, 1985. 46 3 Spenser, Edmund. Sonnet 75 from Amoretti. 1595 4 Larsen, Kenneth J. Introduction. Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti and Epithalamion: A Critical Edition. Tempe, AZ: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1997. 41

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