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Spenser wrote his sonnet sequence (also called sonnet cycle), Amoretti, when he was unsuccessfully courting Elisabeth Boyle in Ireland where he had been granted land holdings. At this time, Spenser was a widower and Elisabeth was just a young woman who had no interest in an older, widowed man. The Amoretti tell of her rejection, his heartbreak, his growing love, and her growing tolerance. In the end, the Amoretti tell how she finally yielded to love herself, then accepted his offer of love and marriage. While critics at one time saw his Epithalamion and the Amoretti as separate entities with no connection between them, critics now agree that the Epithalamion is the grand conclusion of the sonnet cycle and a celebration of his marriage to Elisabeth.
In Amoretti I, Spenser celebrates his first meetings with Elisabeth. He says in a personification that the pages, "leaves," his poems are written are will be happy because they will be handled by her "lily hands." He beseeches the "Leaves, lines, and rhymes" to please her so he might win her love. He is sadly and immediately unsuccessful, though, because in Amoretti II he speaks of "th' inward bale of my love-pined heart: ...."
Leaves, lines, and rhymes, seek her to please alone,
Whom if ye please, I care for other none. (I)
The rest of the Amoretti chronicle the course of his friendship and courtship. For example, in XII he speaks of a betrayal and a treason against him that she believes is the truth. He seeks "To make a truce" with Elisabeth so she will stop believing the slander.
Who me captiving straight with rigorous wrong,
Have ever since me kept in cruel bands.
So Lady, now to you I do complain
Against your eyes that justice I may gain.
Finally, the Amoretti record Spenser's success and tell of his triumph in winning Elisabeth's love. An example is Amoretti LXIX (69). He speaks of his "loves conquest" and of immortalizing her love. In a slightly later one, he also speaks of taking time out from writing The Faerie Queene to "rest me being halfe fordonne, / and gather to my selfe new breath awhile" as he focuses his attention on Elisabeth for a while.
I may record the memory
of my loues conquest, peerelesse beauties prise,
adorn'd with honour, loue, and chastity.
Euen this verse vowd to eternity,
shall be thereof immortall moniment: (LXIX)
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