Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75: An Analysis

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Edmund Spenser's sonnet 75, taken from his collection of poems known as Amoretti, published in 1595, offers a profound exploration of themes related to love, mortality, and immortality. Amoretti is comprised of 89 short sonnets, each contributing to the overall narrative of Spenser's love affair and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle, his second wife. Sonnet 75, in particular, focuses on the contrast between the fleeting nature of physical love and the enduring nature of spiritual love.

Sonnet Structure and Rhyme Scheme

Sonnet 75 follows the traditional Petrarchan sonnet structure, featuring three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet.

The rhyme scheme adheres to the Spenserian sonnet format, with the first quatrain (ABAB), the second quatrain (BCBC), the third quatrain (CDCD), and the concluding couplet (EE). Furthermore, the sonnet is written in iambic pentameter, lending it a smooth and rhythmic quality.

Imagery and Visual Impact

Spenser's skillful use of imagery in sonnet 75 creates vivid and memorable mental pictures for the reader. The opening lines, "One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves and washed it away," immediately conjure the image of a seashore where the poet's words are ephemeral, much like love's transience.

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Throughout the sonnet, phrases such as "decay," "wiped out," "die in dust," and "in the heavens write your glorious name" continue to paint rich and varied pictures in the reader's mind.

Alliteration and Sound Devices

The sonnet employs alliteration extensively, enhancing the sensory experience for the reader. Examples such as "die in dust," "verse your virtue," "love shall live," and "later life" utilize the sounds of /d/, /w/, and /l/ to reinforce the imagery and emotions conveyed.

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The /w/ sound, as in "waves and washed it away," mimics the gentle swishing of ocean waves, while the repetitive /d/ sound adds an ominous quality to words like "decay" and "die."

Symbolism and Allegory

Sonnet 75 is replete with symbolism. The sea symbolizes the emotional distance between the lover and the beloved, causing the poet great anguish. The act of writing on the sand represents the poet's desire to leave a lasting impression on his beloved, but the relentless waves symbolize the harsh realities of love, erasing his efforts repeatedly. The beach, in contrast, symbolizes a tranquil space where the poet can express himself freely.

The act of writing on the sand also speaks to humanity's innate longing for immortality, as people seek to be remembered forever. The waves, in this context, represent the relentless passage of time, erasing the poet's attempts to preserve his legacy. It highlights the futility of human aspirations for lasting recognition, especially for poets who strive for immortality through their words.

The Exploration of Love and Immortality

At its core, Sonnet 75 delves deeply into the themes of love and immortality. The poem opens with the poet's attempt to etch his beloved's name into the sand, symbolizing his desire to immortalize their love. However, the relentless waves serve as a poignant reminder of the temporal nature of physical love. The act of writing her name on the shore, only to have it washed away, mirrors the fleeting moments of human existence and the impermanence of earthly desires.

The beloved's response in the poem emphasizes the futility of the poet's efforts. She rebukes him, asserting that her own mortality will inevitably lead to her name being forgotten, just as the waves erase her name on the shore. This interaction highlights the inevitability of death and the transience of all living beings, including their love. It underscores the idea that even the most passionate and profound love affairs are subject to the inexorable passage of time.

Love as a Source of Immortality

Despite the beloved's skepticism, the poet remains resolute in his conviction that their love can transcend the limitations of mortality. He counters her argument by asserting that while baser things may wither and fade, their love will endure through the ages. The poet's belief in the power of his verse to immortalize the beloved's virtues and name reflects the timeless aspiration of poets to create works that transcend time and resonate with future generations.

It's essential to recognize that the poet's optimism regarding the immortality of their love is grounded in the belief that his verses will be their legacy. Through his artistry, the poet aims to create a lasting monument to their love, one that defies the constraints of time and mortality. In this sense, Sonnet 75 becomes a testament to the enduring power of poetry and art to capture the essence of human emotions and experiences.

The Metaphor of Writing on the Sand

The act of writing the beloved's name on the sand serves as a central metaphor in Sonnet 75. This metaphor can be seen as a representation of the human desire to leave a mark on the world, to be remembered long after one's physical existence has ceased. The poet's repeated attempts to write her name, despite the inevitable erasure by the waves, mirror humanity's persistent yearning for immortality.

Furthermore, the sand can be interpreted as a symbol of memory itself. Just as the waves wash away the written name, the passage of time can blur and distort our memories. The poet's struggle to preserve the beloved's name on the shore reflects the human struggle to hold onto the past and retain a connection to the people and moments that have shaped our lives.

The Eternal Love and Renewal

In the final couplet of the sonnet, the poet asserts that even when death conquers the world and all things come to an end, their love will persist. This idea of eternal love, undeterred by the forces of mortality, offers a sense of hope and consolation. It suggests that while individuals may pass away, the love they shared can continue to influence and inspire future generations.

The concept of renewal in the poem is particularly intriguing. The poet believes that their love will be rejuvenated in the later generations. This renewal could be seen as a metaphor for the enduring impact of art and literature. Just as the poet's verses immortalize the beloved, they also have the potential to inspire new generations of lovers who will discover and connect with the timeless themes explored in Sonnet 75.

Legacy of Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75

Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75 remains a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers across centuries. Its exploration of love, mortality, and the power of art to transcend time elevates it to the realm of enduring poetry. The sonnet reminds us that while physical existence is transient and memories can fade, the emotions and sentiments expressed through poetry have the potential to endure and shape the human experience for generations to come.

As we reflect on the themes and literary techniques employed in Sonnet 75, we are reminded of the enduring significance of poetry as a means of capturing the essence of our existence. The sonnet serves as a testament to the human desire for immortality and the belief that through art and expression, we can leave a lasting legacy that transcends the boundaries of time.


In conclusion, Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75 from Amoretti is a masterpiece of Elizabethan poetry that explores profound themes of love, mortality, and immortality. Through its expert use of form, rhyme, imagery, and symbolism, the sonnet invites readers to contemplate the ephemeral nature of physical love while celebrating the enduring power of spiritual love and art. It underscores the poet's belief in the ability of poetry to immortalize the beloved and their love, offering a message of hope and renewal that continues to resonate with audiences today.

Sonnet 75 reminds us that while the waves of time may wash away the marks we leave on the sands of existence, the verses we create can eternally carve our names in the heavens of human memory.

Updated: Nov 02, 2023
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Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75: An Analysis. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/analysis-of-sonnet-75-amoretti-by-edmund-spenser-essay

Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75: An Analysis essay
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