(Poem #1820) One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand (Amoretti LXXV)
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 "thou dost in vain assay A mortal thing so to immortalize, For I myself shall like to this decay, And eke 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."
Note: The Amoretti are a series of eighty nine sonnets Spenser wrote to commemorate his courtship of his second wife, Elizabeth Boyle. A companion piece, 'Epithalamion', honours their wedding. It's hard to believe I've never come across Spenser's Amoretti before, but the fact remains that they are simply not very well represented in anthologies, recommendations, etc. . I have to wonder if their closeness in theme, form, feel and publication date to Shakespeare's more famous sonnets has to some extent led to their being overshadowed and relatively ignored - Palgrave declines to include one, for instance - but for whatever reason, I have managed to live in blissful ignorance of them. Anyway, I've made up for that now, having spent a happy evening reading through the sonnets - not really the recommended way to read them, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised by their variety, all the more impressive considering the short period in which they were written, and by the reasonably consistent quality of the poems. I chose to run today's sonnet because I was drawn by its resemblance to one of my favourites from Shakespeare, "Nor Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments" [Poem #1575], but this is in reality a very different sort of poem, more playful and less self-absorbed than Shakespeare's despite its superficial thematic similarity. (It is also not as good a poem, but then, few could compare to Shakespeare on what was practically his home ground.) The theme, as I have remarked before, is one beloved of poets through the ages, but the anecdotal tone of Spenser's poem lends it a certain extra charm and intimacy. martin [Links] Biography of Spenser: http://www.bartleby.com/65/sp/Spenser.html On the Amoretti: http://www.bartleby.com/213/1207.html An essay on Spenser: http://www.themediadrome.com/content/articles/words_articles/poems_spenser.htm The complete Amoretti: http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/spenser1.html