One Day I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand by Edmund Spencer: Summary and Analysis

One Day I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand is a Spenserian sonnet. The Spenserian sonnet is broken up into four parts, with a couplet acting as an answer to the poem with the rhyming pattern of ababcdcdefefgg. The poet speaks of his trying to immortalize the woman he loves by writing her name in the sand.

Edmund Spencer (1552-1599)

He tries to challenge nature, or God, by trying to write her name in a place that is only going to disappear each time. By referring to the tide washing the name away, he is expressing a mental and spiritual immortality, and also referring to time and that eventually we will die.

When the poem begins, it seems that the speaker is recalling some past event of his life with his beloved in the seaside. With love, he writes her name in the sand by the sea beach, but the cruel sea waves come and wash away her name. Feeling challenged the speaker again writes her name in the sand, but obviously again the sea waves erase his beloved’s name. His futile action has been the prey of sea waves. Noticing his action, his beloved tells him not to attempt to make the impossible thing that is to write her name on the beach. She kindly reminds the speaker that nothing on the earth remains forever. Not only her name but also she herself will one day vanish from the shore of life. Time is cruel and death is certain. She calls him Vain man for just trying to overcome the unattainable deed to make the mortal an immortal.

In response, the speaker admits that everything has to die and perish from the earth except some virtues. And her virtues and her name will live in the eternal. He promises her to eternalize her through his verse. Her name will be glorified and her virtues and their love will live for ages and ages through his sonnet. When everything on the earth will surrender in front of the cruel time and death, their love will raise from that level and live an eternal life. Every time his sonnet is read and recited, their love will be renewed.

During the Elizabethan age, love sonnets traditionally told the story of men in love with unattainable women. However, Spenser's sonnets from his sonnet sequence "Amoretti" disobey the general pessimism and give an optimistic look at love. In fact, his "Sonnet 75" shows such optimism that his persona, after a realization in the poem, claims that his love will be immortal through verse. "Sonnet 75" stands as a successful sonnet because it presents an optimistic view on love through graphic imagery and a realistic story. Spenser takes the success of the work a step further because he uses form, rhyme, personification, and alliteration to mirror the imagery and story of his sonnet.

If we focus on a deeper level, the poet is concentrating on the virtues of his beloved. He has not mentioned her outer beauty but her inner beauty and virtues. By immortalizing her virtues through his verses the poet is celebrating the importance of spirituality and goodness of human beings. His prime focus was on the love too, the love for each other not on the basis of physicality but on the basis of spirituality.

Spencer uses a very harmonious rhythm and an iambic pentameter to compose a pleasing poetry so as to immortalize his beloved. This sonnet discusses about the transitory world and the ways to make the love undying. Spencer is successful at bringing two contradictory forms of poetry in a same place with a magnificent harmony. The poem is lyrical and dramatic at the same time. A beautiful lyric is maintained in the poem and the dramatic situation is created by the dialogue between the speaker and his beloved.

Cite this Page!

Shrestha, Roma. "One Day I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand by Edmund Spencer: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 24 Apr. 2018,

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