How is love portrayed in Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75, from the sequence "Amoretti"?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75, from the sequence "Amoretti", is often compared to Shakespeare's Sonnet 55, "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments ..." but is actually more somber and reflective and less boastful in tone.

The first four lines portray the male lover writing and rewriting his beloved's name in the strand, but the  waves, lapping against the shore, wash his efforts away. This notion of the evanescence of human lives and loves is reinforced when the beloved points out that it is useless to try to immortalize a mortal person such as herself or a mortal emotion such as love. 

When the poet reassures her that the verses about this moment shall live on eternally, the tone is not the pure egoism and boasting of most monument poems (such as Shakespeare's) but rather expresses a pious Neoplatonic Christian point of view. According to this theological viewpoint, humans are not fully mortal; while the body dies, the soul lives on. The love which lives eternally in the poem corresponds in an earthly fashion to the eternal form of divine love, and within this hierarchy, the immortality of the poem, as verbal artifact, imitates the divine Logos, making a bridge between the mortal and immortal, human and divine, impermanent and eternal, material and spiritual, and human love and divine love. 

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