At a dinner not long ago, I was seated next to journalist Hannah Betts, who enjoined on me, with some force, the virtues of Spenser as a poet. I was a bit taken aback, regarding Faerie Queen as an intolerable burden to even think of reading, but she recommended looking at some of his shorter poems. So I have, and have come across a number of charming sonnets - though I don't always find the metre easy - perhaps there were seventeenth century elisions and pronounciations that I'm missing. But here is a slight sounding but very lovely piece on a familiar theme, mortality and immortality in love. This is my first prize on this voyage of discovery, Edmund Spenser's One day I wrote her name, sonnet 75 from Amoretti:
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 dost 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,
Our love shall live and later life renew.