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Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Day I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand

(Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599, English poet and

The Spenserian sonnet is a combination of two of the main forms of the sonnet. Like the Shakespearean sonnet, it is made up of three quatrains and a closing couplet. But it resembles the Petrarchan sonnet with its connective pattern of rhyme, in this case an interlinking scheme of abab, bcbc, cdcd rhyme before it closes with an epigrammatic couplet of ee rhyme.

This sonnet form was devised by a much-admired and prolific poet, Edmund Spenser. He began his career with his
Shepheardes Calendar, a twelve-part pastoral poem written in somewhat archaic dialect, resembling Chaucer in parts. His fame rests on his epic poem, The Faerie Queene, an allegory honoring Queen Elizabeth.

The sonnet below is part of
Amoretti, his cycle of 89 sonnets commemorating his courtship of Elizabeth Boyle and their marriage.


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 dost 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.

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