Study Guide

One day I wrote her name upon the strand (Sonnet 75) Introduction

By Edmund Spenser

One day I wrote her name upon the strand (Sonnet 75) Introduction

Edmund Spenser (c.1554-1599): British poet extraordinaire. The dude had a lot of interests. He loved writing poems, he loved his Queen Elizabeth (what's up, Virgin Queen!), he loved the idea of love itself, and he loved his great nation of England.

Spenser was a learned guy who knew a whole lot about his country's literature and culture, and whole lot about classical Greek and Roman literature and culture, too. Spenser always felt like England was in need of an epic all of its own to go head-to-head with epics like The Iliad and The Odyssey. So he sat down and wrote (and wrote and wrote) the epic poem The Faerie Queen, which is one of the most important poems of the Renaissance. And, let's just go ahead and say it: it's one of the most important poems ever written. Spenser presented parts of The Faerie Queen to Queen Elizabeth herself. She frickin' loved it.

But Spenser didn't just write epics. In addition to writing The Faerie Queen, he wrote a whole sequence of sonnets called Amoretti (of which "Sonnet 75" is a part, obviously). Spenser did two pretty sweet and inventive things with his sonnet sequence. First, he created a variation on the sonnet form that we now refer to as "the Spenserian sonnet" (see the "Form and Meter" section for the formal deets). He also turned the traditional sonnet themes totally upside down. Before Spenser, almost all sonnet sequences were about unrequited love. (Sob!) But Spenser decided to lighten things up a bit, and his Amoretti tell the story of his successful courtship of and marriage to his wife, Elizabeth Boyle. Spenser paved the way for hundreds of years of happy sonnets.

"Sonnet 75" is one of Spenser's most famous sonnets. It's about the ocean, love, and immortality, It's also about the great power of the almighty Poetry (yes, with a capital P). What poet, or reader of poems, can resist a poem that insists upon poetry's power? None that we can find.

What is One day I wrote her name upon the strand (Sonnet 75) About and Why Should I Care?

Our bud Edmund Spenser knew how to talk to the ladies. Forget about Neil Strauss, Mystery, and all those pick-up artists. If you want to win a chick's heart, tell her you'll make her immortal. (We're pretty sure that this works on the guys as well. Who doesn't want to be told that they can live forever?)

Far from having just a sweet and successful pick-up line (or, more exactly, a sweet and successful pick-up sonnet), Edmund was really onto something; he understood that we humans have a deep desire for immortality. And he had a simple recipe to make it happen:

1. become an awesome poet,
2. write a poem about your beloved,
3. BAM: instant immortality for you and your lady-friend (or man-friend) as millions of people read your poems even after you're dead.

So, here's the takeaway from Spenser's "Sonnet 75": if you've got the poetry skills, people will be reading your sonnets 400 years into the future. And if all goes as planned, we think that there's more than immortality in your future; we think there will be a make-out session or two (or three), if your poems are good enough. Take a page out of Spenser's playbook and get writing, nerds.

One day I wrote her name upon the strand (Sonnet 75) Resources

Websites

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Spenser but Were Afraid to Ask
Check out this incredibly detailed bio by the Poetry Foundation.

More Spenser
Here he is, as seen through the Luminarium (ooooooo).

Video

Rockin' Edmund
Check out this dramatic interpretation, featuring… Coldplay (?!).

Another Tribute
Dig the beachside video.

Spencer in Cork
Here's a short BBC documentary about Spenser's time as a colonial administrator in Ireland.

Audio

Librivox'd
This link has readings of three of the Amoretti.

Another Interpretation
Here's an… interesting presentation.

Images

No Frills? Not Our Guy
That's a sweet scarfy-thing, bro.

Awesome 'Stache, Edmund
Hipsters everywhere weep with jealousy.

Articles and Interviews

"Why Edmund Spenser Matters"
Wondering? Find out why here.

"The Perverse Relevance of Spenser"
Don't take our word for it.

Books

The Norton Critical Edition of Edmund Spenser's Poetry
Get it while it's hot, folks!

Edmund Spenser: A Life
Here's a 2012 biography of our main man Edmund.

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