Edmund Spenser (1552 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known
for The Fairy Queen an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the
Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier
craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and is considered one of
the greatest poets in the English Language. Edmund Spenser published his
first important work, The Shepheardes Calender circa 1580. He also worked
for courtiers Robert Dudley and Arthur Lord Grey, deputy of Ireland. It is in
Ireland that Spenser wrote most of his masterwork, The Faerie Queene, a
multi-part epic poem which glorifies England and its language. The poem
pleased Queen Elizabeth I, who gave Spenser a small pension for life.
ABOUT THE POET
My love is like to ice, and I to fire:
how comes it then that this her cold so great
is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
but harder grows, the more I her entreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
is not delayed by her heart frozen cold,
but that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
and feel my flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told
that fire, which all thing melts, should harden
and ice which is congealed with senseless cold,
should kindle fire by wonderful device?
Such is the pow'r of love in gentle mind
that it can alter all the course of kind.
• The narrator tells about his undeniable
love for the woman.
• The narrator calls her heart frozen cold
because of her disregard of his existence.
• As the man allows himself to love the
woman more and more, her heart
becomes colder and colder, distancing
herself from the man.
The narrator in the poem is helplessly in love
with a woman who does not have the same
feelings for him. While he constantly showers
her with love, affection and attention, all she
does is disregard his existence. Instead of
letting this discourage him, the man allows his
love for the woman to grow stronger, while
she seems to distance herself from him more.
The more he falls in love with her and the
more he tries to be with her, the colder her
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 doest in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize,
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eek 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,
Out love shall live, and later life renew.
• The man attempts to forever etch his lover’s
name into the beach sand, but the waves wipe
• Trying to immortalize her the woman, she
claims that the man’s attempts were in vain.
• All manmade things are destroyed with time.
• He uses a rhyming scheme for this poem.
This sonnet seems to be about the author’s attempts to immortalize his wife
or the love of his life. Spenser starts the poem with a quatrain recalling an
incident that could have happened any summer day at the seaside. He writes
his love’s name in the sand at the beach, but the ocean’s waves wipe it
away, just as time will destroy all manmade things. The next quatrain describes
the woman’s reaction to the man’s charming attempt to immortalize her. She
claims that the man’s attempts were in vain and that no mortal being can be
immortalized due to the cruelness of time.
He shows the relation between time and immortality. Edmund Spenser
employs figurative language to evoke not only imagery but also an emotional
response from the reader. The poem shows us a vivid picture: the couple is
along the seaside, the man is trying to write the lady’s name on the sand, but
waves come and wash it away. Then he writes again, but all in vain. The lady
persuades him to give up and says that as time passes, she will also die just as
the name wiped out by tide. But the man holds a different point of view: He
believes his verses will make her immortal.
ONE DAY I WROTE HER NAME
UPON THE STRAND
Fair is my love, when her fair golden hairs
With the loose wind ye waving chance to mark:
Fair, when the rose in her red cheeks appears,
Or in her eyes the fire of love does spark:
Fair, when her breast, like a rich laden bark
With precious merchandise she forth doth lay:
Fair, when that cloud of pride, which oft doth
Her goodly light, with smiles she drives away
But fairest she, when so she doth display
The gate with pearls and rubies richly dight,
Through which her words so wise do make their
To bear the message of her gentle sprite.
The rest be works of nature's wonderment,
But this the work of heart's astonishment.
• He is describing the looks of a
woman he finds attractive.
• He is acting very fascinated with
the female body.
• He goes on describing everything
he sees about her.
• The author uses a rhyming
scheme for this certain poem.
FAIR IS MY LOVE, WHEN HER FAIR
He's expressing his amazement of the Female body. He's not doing so in a
lustful way, but he is speaking of it with a heart of purity. He speaks of how
her gentle touch can wipe away his anger and his pride. He speaks of the gate
being open. He speaks of the women opening herself up to receive a gift.
FAIR IS MY LOVE, WHEN HER FAIR
Lyke as a ship, that through the ocean wyde
By conduct of some star doth make her way,
Whenas a storm hath dimd her trusty guyde,
Out of her course doth wander far astray,
So I, whose star, that wont with her bright ray
Me to direct, with cloudes is over-cast,
Doe wander now in darknesse and dismay,
Through hidden perils round about me plast.
Yet hope I well that, when this storme is past,
My Helice*, the lodestar of ray lyfe,
Will shine again, and looke on me at last,
With lovely light to cleare my cloudy grief.
Till then I wander carefull, comfortlesse,
In secret sorrow and sad pensivenesse.
• Using a ship as a metaphor, he
writes about himself feeling lost
at sea without his lover’s love.
• He goes on about how he feels
without her, but hopes she shall
be back again.
In this sonnet, Spenser uses another metaphorical "picture." This time, the
picture the poet presents is himeslf as a ship lost at sea without his lover's
love. Without his lover, he has no "star, that wont with her bright ray/ Me to
direct," in other words, without her he has no guiding star, or north star. He
has no compass to help him through "a storme." By line 11, he utters words
of "hope," which is the important Protestant word in prayer. Meanwhile, as he
hopes for her return, he must continue on, lost in a storm. Note also how we
saw the image / metaphor of an individual lost at sea as far back as Anglo-
Sweet is the rose, but growes upon a brere;
Sweet is the iunipeer; but sharpe his bough;
Sweet is the eglantine, but pricketh nere;
Sweet is the firbloome, but his braunches
Sweet is the cypresse, but his rynd is rough;
Sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill**;
Sweet is the broome-flowre, but yet sowre
And sweet is moly, but his root is ill.
So every sweet with soure is tempred still,
That maketh it be coveted the more:
For easie things, that may be got at will,
Most sorts of men doe set but little store.
Why then should I accompt of little paine,
That endlesse pleasure shall unto me gaine!
• He lists many good things being
repetitive with the words “sweet”
and “but”. Using these words to
show that there are many good
things that are sweet but what
comes with them may not be so
• His brings back the signature
rhyming scheme, he does much in
Spenser lists a bunch of things in nature that are equally pleasant and
unpleasant. If something is acquired too easily without pain, one won't get as
much pleasure out of it. The more the pleasure, the more the pain; the more
the pain, the more the pleasure. He'd rather endure the pain since it means
If this be love, to draw a weary breath,
To paint on floods till the shore cry to th'air,
With downward looks, still reading on the earth
The sad memorials of my love's despair;
If this be love, to war against my soul,
Lie down to wail, rise up to sigh and grieve,
The never-resting stone of care to roll,
Still to complain my griefs whilst none relieve;
If this be love, to clothe me with dark thoughts,
Haunting untrodden paths to wail apart;
My pleasures horror, music tragic notes,
Tears in mine eyes and sorrow at my heart.
If this be love, to live a living death,
Then do I love and draw this weary breath.
IF THIS BE LOVE, TO DRAW A