Spenser’s Sonnet No. 75: Some Important Explanations

Some Impotant Explanations from Spenser's Sonnet No. 75 (Oneday I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand)
Explanation 1

“Vayne man” sayd she, “That doest in vaine assay,

A mortal thing so to immortalize

For I myself shall lyke to this decay,

And eek my name bee wyped out likewise.”


The above quoted extract from ‘Sonnet No. 75’ is ultimately from Edmund Spenser’s book of verse The Amoretti. The beloved harshly mocks at the lover’s futile efforts to immortalize her name as well as herself. The lover is trying is best to preserve her sweetheart’s name on the sandy shore eternally. The hungry tides come and wash the name away. The lover does the same job number of times but gets the same result. In this way, the waves put the water into all the endeavors made by the lover. On noticing this vain efforts the beloved, in an ironical tone teases her lover’s excessive pride and vanity. The first ‘vayne’ refers to the boastful person who commits stupid things. The second ‘vaine’ suggests the fruitless and useless attempt. Being a woman of flesh and blood she is bound to perish. She is well aware that she has no escape from time’s icy hand. Besides raising a realistic note, her statement is flung at the lover as a sort of challenge. It further brings out the grim problem, the mortal nature of youth and beauty in the world of transitoriness.

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Explanation 2


“Not so” quod I “let baser things devise

To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame.”


In a taunting tone, the poet’s beloved (Elizabeth Boyle) has laughed at the futile attempt to immortalize the mortal things. The extract quoted above is the fitting reply to the mistress’ scoffing remark. The lover argues that things of inferior quality may devise to die in dust. Things that decay and die are base. This brings to our mind the Scholastic theory of the nature of substances propounded by St. Thomas Aquinas. It says that base metal such as iron decays because of its inferiority, but gold because of  its sterling quality and integrity shines forever. Keeping this theory in mind, the poet lover announces that his lady love’s supreme qualities like pure love, fidelity, beauty, modesty and chastity must not perish in course of time. These exceptional virtues will remain forever.  The lover will immortalize those in his verse. Art has the power and capacity to conquer over tome and death. Her love being made of pure stuff will, therefore, know no destruction.


Explanation 3

“My verse your virtues rare shall etrnize,

And in the heavens wryte your glorious name,

Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,

Our love shall live and later life renew.”


This is the concluding couplet of Spenser’s ‘Sonnet No. 75’ from The Amoretti. The lines are full of Spenser’s robust optimism and self confidence. Though his lady love is doubtful about his endeavor to immortalize mortal creature in the mortal world, the lover bears a strong sense of faith on the wings o poesy. He assert that though he cannot prevent her physical decay, his eternal verse will preserve the rare qualities of his paramour. What more can one expect from her lover? Yes, the lover desires to write her ‘glorious name’ in the heaven so that it may blaze forever in fiery letters. This love is so full of passion that it will put new vigour and vitality in the ‘later life’. Definitely, it will inspire and refresh the minds of the lover and the beloved of the come-up-ages about the true quality of love. These lines clearly reflect the perpetual existence of art and love in the world-of-death. As long as art and love exist, the world too exists.


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