Edmund Spenser is one of the most widely known Elizabethan poets. He often put himself in the center of his poems, expressing very personal thoughts, emotions, and convictions. Such poetry, known as 'lyric,' became popular during Spenser's time where poems were more focused on the individual. In his poem known as Sonnet 75, Spenser proclaims his love to his woman with the use of symbols, her name and heaven, external conflicts, and alliteration.
In Spenser's sonnet, he and his lover are walking along the shore of a beach where he attempts to proclaim his deep love for her by writing her name in the sand. He wants the name to be permanent to prove to her that he will forever love her, but unfortunately, the waves of the shore keep coming and washing the name away. He tries writing her name a second time, but the handwritten name again suffers the same fate and another wave comes and erases it away.
Spenser includes a dialogue in his poem as the woman confronts him on what she calls a vain act, pointing out that he cannot immortalize a mortal thing like love. She continues to tell him that even if he could, she is a mortal human being and will eventually die. The poet then responds to her statements confidently, claiming that he can immortalize her virtues and his love for her in his poetry, and that when they die on earth, their love will still live and that he will write her name in the heavens where it will stay forever and they shall start a new life there together.
The main symbol of this sonnet is the name the poet wrote in the sand of shore. This written name symbolizes his love for the woman he's with, and it's the initial reason this sonnet was written. Lines two and four, where Spenser produces the images of the beach waves crashing on the coast and erasing the name, represent the first conflict in the poem. The poet has a conflict with the waves since he wants the name he has written in the sand to stay but the waves keep coming and making his "paynes [their] pray." He metaphorically represents the waves as a beast of some sort, hunting for prey; prey in which being the love he posses for his woman.
The second conflict in the poem is between the two lovers. Once the dialogue starts, the woman indicates that a mortal thing such as love cannot be immortalized, calling him vain in his attempts. The speaker on the other hand is convinced that immortalizing his love for her is entirely possible, and that he will do it. He concludes that he will immortalize his love for her in his writing, eternalizing her virtues in his poems forever. He then reassures her that even after death, he will write her name in heaven, which represents the central image of the poem, the writing of the woman's name. Her name is being transferred from earth, a mortal place, to heaven, an immortal place. The speaker of the poem not only resolves the conflict he faced with his woman, but he also solved his previous conflict of not being able to make the writing in the sand stay forever, and has figured out a way to prove his love for his woman for eternity.
In this octet, Spenser writes in metrically regular lines which make great use of alliteration: In line two he wrote "waves and washed", in line three "wrote it with", in line four "paynes his pray", in line ten "dy in dust", in line eleven "verse your vertues", in line thirteen "Where whenas", and in line fourteen "love shall live" and "later life". The metrical regularity and the music of alliteration provide a smooth background for the poem and make it flow smoothly.
In Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 75, Spenser uses symbols like the name written in the sand and heaven, external conflicts, and alliteration that set up a carefully argued opposition between earthly, mortal things and heavenly, immortal things all in which to convey his idea of love and to prove his undying love for his woman.