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Edmund Spenser

 ,One day I wrote her name upon the strand


 :But came the waves and washéd 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 eke my name be wiped out likewise
 Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise"
 :To die in dust, but you shall live by fame
 ,My verse your vertues 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

Summary
Just picture it: the speaker and his lady-friend are at the strand (i.e., the beach). He writes
her name in the sand, but a wave comes and washes it away. He writes it again, but alas, a
wave washes it away again (no big surprise there, really).

The woman says that it's silly for the speaker to be writing her name in the sand to begin
with; she's going to die one day and disappear from the earth, just as her name has
disappeared.

Then the speaker works his magic. He tells his sweetie that he'll immortalize her by writing
about her in his poems. Their names will live forever in his poetry, and their love will live on
forever and ever. Aw, how sweet.

Lines 1-14 Summary 


Lines 1-2
One day I wrote her name upon the strand, 
But came the waves and washéd it away: 

• Okay guys, let's jump on in. The poem begins by setting the scene: the speaker(the "I")
of the poem is at the strand with his gal pal. The strand, in case you are not up on
Spenser's lingo, is another name for the shore—you know, the sandy part of the beach. 
• So the speaker and his beloved are chilling at the beach, and he decides to get all
romantic and write her name in the sand. Aw, cuteness. 
• But then the waves wash away her name—sadness. 
• Before we move on, let's just take note of the poem's form. We know from the title that
it's a sonnet (what's up, 14-line poem) but we're not so sure about therhyme
HYPERLINK "http://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/rhyme-scheme.html"
HYPERLINK "http://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/rhyme-scheme.html"
HYPERLINK "http://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/rhyme-scheme.html"
scheme yet. There's no rhyming going on in these lines. 
• You might also want to note that the poem has ten-syllable lines, which should put you
on iambic pentameter alert. 
• Surprise, surprise. These lines are actually written in perfect iambic pentameter.
Spenser even lets us know that we should pronounce "washed" with two syllables
(that's what the accent mark means): as "washed," to preserve the poem's
perfect iambic rhythm. Dude was a stickler about iambic pentameter. (For more on the
poem's rhythm, check out the "Form and Meter" section.)

Lines 3-4
Again I wrote it with a second hand, 
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. 

• Our speaker is pretty intrepid. He writes his girlfriend's name in the sand again—in the
words of the poem, "with a second hand."
• And then, uh-oh, the tide comes in and washes her name away again. The beach is just
downright cruel. 
• Let's take note of the speaker's diction (or word choice) here. He refers to his writing as
"his pains," and this language seems to suggest that writing—even just the writing of his
beloved's name in the sand—is hard work. 
• The speaker also makes a metaphor; he refers to his writing as the "prey" of the waves.
He basically imagines that the waves are like a mean ol' predator, just waiting to pounce
on his poor defenseless writing. A little dramatic, dontcha think? The speaker's got a flair
for the dramatic (or, we might even say, a flair for the poetic) if you ask us. 
• And one more thing: we've got some rhyming going on. "Strand" (1) and "hand" (3)
rhyme, as do "away" (2) and "prey" (4).
• This is a basic ABAB rhyme (where the letter stands for that line's end rhyme).

Lines 5-6
"Vain man," said she, "that dost in vain assay, 
A mortal thing so to immortalize; 

• Look out, it's dialogue. It's not too often that dialogue shows up in a sonnet, as sonnets
are pretty short poems. But we find it pretty snazzy that Spenser included some speech
in "Sonnet 75."
• Now, don't be afraid of this dialogue just because the beloved uses old-school words
like "dost." We'll translate for you. She basically says, "Hey speaker: you're vain (i.e., full
of yourself) and your assay (or attempt) to preserve (immortalize) my name (a mortal
thing) in the sand is silly (in vain)." Got it? 
• She's telling him that his gesture will never work, that he's being proud in thinking that
his writing is more powerful than the forces of nature. He's trying in vain—or uselessly—
to make her name immortal, when in fact it's mortal (it will die). 
• Note that the speaker's lady-friend is using the word "vain" twice in one line; she knows
this word has multiple meanings, and she's drawing on both of them. We've got a smart
chick on our hands in this poem. 
• And when we stop to think about it, this dialogue is pretty cool, since we get to have the
direct perspective of someone other than the speaker in the poem. It's pretty rare for
multiple points of view to find their way into short poems like sonnets, especially back in
Spenser's day.
• And before we move on, let's just make one more note: there's more perfect iambic
pentameter here, and an interesting twist to the rhyme. The first lines of the poem had
an ABAB rhyme scheme, and these lines continue the B rhyme—"assay" rhymes with
"prey" and "away," and introduces another rhyme (the C rhyme) with the word
"immortalize." Stay tuned for the word that rhymes with "immortalize"…

Lines 7-8
For I myself shall like to this decay, 
And eke my name be wiped out likewise." 

• These lines are the continuation of the beloved's speech. She says that she, too, will
decay and disappear, just as her name has disappeared from the beach. She, too, will
be "wiped out."
• Is the speaker's lady-friend being all perverse and morbid here? Or is she just telling the
truth? That one day, we'll all be "wiped out" by death? What do you think?
• Oh and p.s., in Spenser's day, the word "eke" meant "also." It's one of those words that
has been wiped out by the waves of time. 
• So to summarize, the beloved thinks that the speaker is being a little silly by continually
writing her name in the sand, and she recognizes that, like her name, she won't live
forever. 
• And now let's think about form for a second. We've got enough of the poem that we can
see the rhyming pattern appear: ABAB BCBC. And (poetry spoiler alert) this pattern will
continue throughout the poem. This rhyme scheme, is what makes the "Spenserian
sonnet"… Spenserian. It was Spenser's innovation to the form. Nice work, Edmund.

Lines 9-10
"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise 
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: 

• At this point in the sonnet, we get a classic volta (or turn), in which the poem changes its
tune. So far, the poem has been all about mortality—how nothing and no one can live
forever. But now, the poem begins to say that actually, yes, some things do live forever. 
• The dialogue shifts from the beloved to the speaker himself (and we're just assuming
that the speaker was a dude, given the lack of evidence to the contrary). He tells his
girlfriend that "baser things [will] devise / to die in dust." Translation: things that are
"baser" (or lower, less important, cruder) than you will die and become dust, but that
"you shall live by fame."
• In other words: death is for suckers, yo. And you, my dear, are most definitely not a
sucker (says the speaker). 
• And note all that alliteration of D words—"devise," "die," "dust." It all sounds very harsh,
but the speaker eases up on these tough sounds when he addresses his girl at the end
of the line. Check out "Sound Check" for more on how the poem sounds.
• So, tell us, speaker, how will your lady-friend become famous?

Lines 11-12
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, 
And in the heavens write your glorious name: 

• So how will the speaker's beloved live forever? Through his poetry, of course. (In this
line, "verse" = "poetry"). The writing in the sand was just child's play. Poetry does all the
heavy lifting involved in making someone eternal. 
• The speaker says that his verse will "eternize" all of his girl's virtues, and that it will write
her name in the heavens, not in the sand. His poetry will be so awesome that it will
make her immortal, basically. 
• Note the soft, alliterative V's in "verse" and "vertues"—they seem almost sweet
compared to the hard D's in "dust" and "die."
• He speaks to his sweetheart softly.
• But not too softly: we are starting to think that the beloved is right when she calls the
speaker "vain." Does his poetry really have the power to make someone immortal? Can
her "glorious name" really live on forever through his poetry? Are his poems really that
good? Or does the speaker have a serious over-confidence problem?

Lines 13-14
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, 
Our love shall live, and later life renew." 

• Depending on your point of view, the speaker either reveals himself to be the most
loving boyfriend ever, or the most clueless one. He pushes the envelope even more with
this immortality stuff. He says that "death shall all the world subdue"—in other words,
that death will kill everyone in the whole wide world—but that their "love shall live, and
later life renew." Translation: everyone will die but their love will go on forever because
of his poetry.
• Now, here's where form gets really interesting. Have you noticed how the poem has
become really alliterative, once the speaker begins his dialogue? In these final two lines,
we have alliteration of W words in "where," "whenas," and "world," and alliteration of L
words with "love," "live," "later," and "life."
• It's like the speaker really wants to show off his poetry-makin' skills now. He's making
these big claims—you will live forever through my awesome poems—and, to prove it, he
shows off his alliterative skills. We feel very conscious that this poem is a Poem-with-a-
capital-P, if you know that we mean.
• This becomes doubly true when we notice that the last two lines of the poem form a
rhyming couplet. So much rhyming, so much alliteration—this poem's poem-ness is
undeniably poem-ish. This final couplet is the other hallmark of the Spenserian sonnet; it
provides a sense of closure and finality to the poem.
• So, do you think that the speaker is making promises that he can't keep? Can he really
immortalize his gal in verse? Just think about it: are you reading Spenser's poem? Are
you thinking deep thoughts about him and his beloved? Are you Shmooping this poem
up or what?
• We may not actually know his beloved's name, but we're all thinking about the speaker
and his gal right now. Edmund Spenser and the immortal power of his awesome verse
FTW. (That's "For the win," for all you technophobes out there).

Alliteration
ANALYSIS
Symbol Analysis
Alliteration is all over "Sonnet 75." Since the speaker is bragging about his poetry skills, we
think that he decides to show them off via alliteration (which is a super-obvious and easily
identifiable hallmark of poetry). The speaker wants us to notice the poem-y-ness of his
poem, and alliteration becomes a really quick way for him to do just exactly that.

• Line 2: "Waves" and "washed" alliterate early on in the poem; the softness of all those W
sounds is just washing over us. 
• Line 4: "Pain" and "prey" alliterate, and those P's sound pretty harsh. The sound echoes
the rough content of the line, in which the ocean metaphorically eats up the beloved's
name as if it is prey. 
• Lines 9-10: The harsh D of "devise," "die," and "dust" is smacking us in the face. We
don't want to die in dust. Duh, dudes. 
• Line 11: Ah, the soft V of "verse" and "vertues" is now mellowing us out. We'll take this
mellow sound over the D's and P's any day.
• Lines 13-14: Ditto on the melodious W's and L's in the final lines of the poem, in the
words "where," "Whenas," and "love," "live," and "later life." This kind of alliteration lulls
us into happyland.
The Waves
Symbol Analysis
Ah, the waves. Poets love to write about 'em; people love to read about 'em. They're really
the perfect metaphor for the movements of life, all of its ebbs and flows, tides in, tides out,
life, death, life, death. The beach is the scene of this whole poem, but the speaker actually
poses something a little contradictory; he says he'll be able to stop this cycle of the waves.
Instead of being destroyed by the waves, his beloved will rise above them and live on
forever.

• Lines 1-4: The speaker writes his gal's name in the sand, and the waves wash it away.
Then, the whole process repeats. The waves are relentless. There's no stopping the
waves. (Unless you're the speaker, that is. Then you can stop the destructive ways with
your poetry—you know, metaphorically.)

The Name
Symbol Analysis
We don't ever find out the beloved's name in "Sonnet 75," but it sure is important. The sand-
writing of her name begins the poem, and the name becomes a big ol' symbol for the
beloved herself. The waves keep washing her name away, which reminds her that one day
she will die, which causes the speaker to say: "Not so fast, girlfriend, I've got this one
covered." What's in a name in "Sonnet 75"? Everything.

• Lines 1-4: The name appear as ephemeral and fleeing, as it gets washed away by the
waves (twice). 
• Lines 5-8: The beloved isn't afraid of being "washed away"; she understands that she,
like her name in the sand, won't last forever. 
• Lines 11-12: The speaker promises his girl that he has bigger plans for her; he's gonna
write her name in his poetry and in the heavens. Take that, ocean waves.

THEMES
. Immortality > Love > literature & writing

Immortality theme
QUOTES
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. (1-4)

The beginning of the poem seems almost anti-immortality; the speaker writes his beloved's
name in the sand, but the waves keep washing it away. Nothing lasts forever, dude, says
the ocean. The circle of life moves us all.

>>

"Vain man," said she, "that 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." (5-8)

The beloved is on the same page as the ocean. She seems to be a pretty level-headed
lady. She knows she's gonna die one day. She knows she won't live forever and ever. So
she's okay with the fact that the waves have washed away her name. This is what we call
acceptance.

>>

"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise 


To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: 
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, 
And in the heavens write your glorious name: (9-12)

Ah, speaker. If his gal pal is a realist, he's a total romantic. She's better than those "baser
things" which, you know, die. She's gonna live forever. And how, you might ask, will that
happen? Why, the speaker's poetry will take on the job of granting immortality. And there's
alliteration all over the lines of this poem, so we're pretty sure that the speaker's trying to
communicate just how much poetry mojo he's got. He's really calling attention to the poetry
skills in these lines
Literature & Writing theme

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. (1-4)

The first instance of writing in the poem is non-immortal writing. This ain't poetry; it's beach
writing. This type of writing is ephemeral and fleeting. It's not supposed to last forever.

"Vain man," said she, "that 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." (5-8)

The speaker's beloved knows that the beach writing is fleeting. And she also knows that her
life is fleeting too. She seems okay with this fact. She's not stressing out over death here.
Death's a part of life for the beloved.

>>

"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise 


To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: 
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, 
And in the heavens write your glorious name: (9-12)

Ah, speaker. You've got such plans. He doesn't want his beloved to die out like those "baser
things." He's got faith in his versifying skills. Check out all the alliteration in these lines. He's
almost exaggerating his poetry aptitude by including all this alliteration.

>>
Love theme

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. (1-4)

Love makes us do silly things, like grab sticks and write our significant others' names in the
sand. Love even makes us do silly things like this twice. Love makes suckers of us all.

>>

"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise 


To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: 
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, 
And in the heavens write your glorious name: (9-12)

What's more romantic than your dude telling you that "you['ll] live by fame" because of your
"vertues rare"? Back in the day: not much. Sure, some girls dig roses and chocolates, some
girls might like to receive a rad dirt bike as an expression of love, but our speaker's hoping
that he can flatter his girl with some verses (i.e., with some sonnets, like the sonnet you just
finished reading).

>>

Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, 


Our love shall live, and later life renew." (13-14)

In this final couplet, with its lovely rhyme that provides a sense of closure, we find out that
it's not just the beloved who will live on through poetry. Our speaker will too, because it's the
love that "shall live, and later life renew." It's not so much "my heart will go on," but, "our
hearts will go on" in "Sonnet 75."