Valentine Poem: "One Day I Wrote Her Name" by Edmund Spenser

While working in Ireland and courting his second wife, Elizabeth Boyle, English poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) wrote a series of love sonnets called Amoretti.  The sonnets were apparently successful: the couple married in 1594 and the poems were published a year later. "One Day I Wrote Her Name" is #75 out of 97 or so.  It's a contemplation of love and mortality. Spenser's promise to immortalize his beloved through verse has also succeeded--400 years on we're still reading his lines about her, though her name is not mentioned in this particular sonnet.  The poem is remarkable for the power of its simplicity and the ease with which it fulfills the sonnet form.

Amoretti: Sonnet LXXV
by Edmund Spenser

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 my self shall like to this decay,
and eke my name to 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 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.


1 comment:

  1. Best poem to me. I worked on it when writing my fianl paper at the National Pedagogical University, Kinshasa, DRCongo