Amoretti: Sonnet 86

 Overview

Yes! It’s Edmund Spenser and Edmund Spenser rocks. However, this isn’t quite as good as his efforts included in the previous AS selection.

This sonnet is another part of his epic 89 poem series Amoretti that tell us his journey from fancying some young wench to eventually winning her heart. We are towards the end here and he is moaning about the fact that now he has her heart and they are an official Facebook couple (:p), he gets pretty miserable whenever they have to spend time apart.

Mini-Glossary
protract – prolong;
adorne – wear;
noyous – annoying or irritating;
forlorne – abandoned, deserted;
faine – 
happily;
beguile – to deceive with charm;
ioyous – presumably just a variant spelling of joyous.

Since I did leave the presence of my Love,
Many long weary dayes I have outworne,
And many nights, that slowly seemd to move
Theyr sad protract from evening untill morn.
For, when as day the heaven doth adorne,
I wish that night the noyous day would end:
And when as night hath us of light forlorne,
I wish that day would shortly reascend.
Thus I the time with expectation spend,
And  faine my griefe with chaunges to beguile,
That further seemes his terme to extend,
And maketh every minute seem a myle. 
So sorrowe still doth seem too long to last;
But ioyous houres do fly away too fast.

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Analysis
Click through the tabs below to explore my analysis of different aspects of the poem.
ContextThemesContentLanguage and techniquesStructureTone

Context

Edmund Spenser was one of the most famous writers of the sixteenth century and is generally considered to be one of the all time greats. He’s probably best known for writing The Faerie Queen, which celebrates the Tudor dynasty and Queen Liz in particular. 

We had two of his poems in the last AS selection (that you can have a little read of here –  Sonnet 54 and Sonnet 75), which were both from the same collections of 89 sonnets called Amoretti (old Italian for love or Cupid). This sequence details one chap’s attempts to woo a young lady. Most of them are full of his melancholy as she rejects his humble advances, but our poem is at the business end of the collection when he has the lady’s affections.

Amoretti is semi-autobiographical – with a bit of art thrown in there to make it a bit more interesting, no doubt – and follows his attempts to seduce and marry Elizabeth Boyle. You’ll be delighted to know he was successful. Like all happy endings though, it ended in death and, unfortunately for Spenser, his was only 5 years after they’d married. Hardly seems writing 89 sonnets for 5 years worth of happiness…

I love Spenser so much that I desperately wanted my wife to allow our first born to be an Edmund (also related to my love of The Count of Monte Cristo‘s bad ass hero!). However, she wasn’t convinced :(.

 

 Themes

Love, love, love. It’s always love with Spenser. I’d again argue that this is a relatively immature form of love as it is filled with the heightened emotions of joy and misery rather than the more mature feelings of comfort and security.

Even though Spenser has got the girl, he is moaning about how difficult it is to bear a few days absence from her. I know this is good form in poetry, but in reality he wouldn’t be writing this if the relationship wasn’t relatively new. I rejoice for a few days off from my wife so I can play some Xbox or sit around in my pants all day (my current 6 month absence has been pretty hard though).

Content

I’ve hit a streak of nice, easy to sum up poems! Yes!

Basically Spenser is having to spend a few days apart from his other half. However, his affection for her is such that this small period of time seems to stretch on and on, leaving him fairly miserable and wishing for an end to his deprivation. He spends this time worrying about whether his lady might change her mind or be swayed elsewhere, which makes the time apart seem to last even longer.

At the end he sums up by lamenting that time stretches on and on when he is deprived of his love and yet seems to race by when they are together.

Language and techniques

Don’t panic! I’ve not made loads of mistakes and you can spell, this poem is just written in ye olde language and thus some of the words look a little different and there are a few archaic words that we don’t see much of these days.

The key thing to get to grips with here is the consistent use of exaggeration of his suffering in order to emphasise just how much he loves her. He begins with the word ‘since’ that tells us that his suffering has begun immediately upon being separated from his ‘Love’. He repeats ‘many’ twice to describe both the days and nights he is deprived of his love, but even this is not enough and he adds that they were ‘long [and] weary’ and the night progressed ‘slowly’.

We get it, you miss her! Make sure you explain that this combination of techniques and language is meant to communicate the strength of his affection evidenced by his extreme suffering.

In the second quatrain Spenser again discusses night and day, but these are now used analogously with being with and without his girlfriend. ‘I wish’ is repeated twice to again emphasise his desperation to be reunited. He wishes night ‘would end’ and day ‘shortly reascend’. The choice of ‘wish’ here is significant as it is as if he is praying to a higher power, appealing to the gods, perhaps, to end his suffering.

He says ‘heaven doth adorne’ the day, which could literally be taken to represent the sun, but is clearly meant to represent her. Being deprived of her is described as being ‘of light forlorne’ implying he feels he is left in the dark without her presence. By saying that day is blessed with ‘heaven’ associates his lover with something divine, clearly she has this importance to him. By elevating her like this he is flattering her to the limit of poetic powers. In Sonnet 75 he had already promised to make her divine through his poetry preserving their love, and now he sees her as such.

What about the connotations of night? Dark, cold, miserable and lonely are all ideas that should be coming to mind. In fact night here is ‘the noyous day’ (no typo! I’d never heard this word before either) meaning that it causes him irritation and suffering. Notice here that night is still day, that is because it is a figurative night, which merely represents his deprivation rather than actually being nighttime.

The third quatrain moves us on to Spenser’s coping strategies during his difficult absence. All the time apart he ‘with expectation spend[s]’, which means that he is constantly thinking about his situation. Not a good plan. He uses personification to present his ‘griefe’ as some sort of creature who is ‘faine’ or happily leading him to consider ‘chaunges to beguile’. This is a bit thick, but basically we have a personified grief trying to convince and trick Spenser into thinking that his lover’s affections may alter while they are absent. This is a particular feature of new love as doubts become exacerbating during absences and there is not yet the level of trust and security of a longer and more stable love affair.

The result of this mischievous thinking conjured by his grief is that the absence ‘seemes his terme still to extend’ and thus his worries make the deprivation seem to endure even longer. ‘Every minute seem[s] a myle’ reaffirms this impact, although Spenser should no better than to compare apples to oranges (you can’t compare units of time with units of distances meaningfully!).

We end with a couplet that laments the irony of time’s duration at moments of pleasure and moments of misery. Misery ‘doth seem too long to last’, while happy ‘houres do fly away too fast’. Our common modern day idiom would be time flies when you’re having fun, which is all too true, but the main point of the poem is that it drags on when you’re having a sulk.

The impact of his level of misery and moaning throughout the poem is to blow smoke up Boyle’s arse and make her feel like she is super special. It definitely works; always make out that you are miserable without your other half even if you’re not fussed, just to make them feel good about themselves.

Structure

Not a huge amount to say here that I haven’t dealt with above.

You could mention Spenser using alliteration in the 12 lines with the stressed ‘m’ sounds once again emphasising his misfortune and misery. That’s about it though.

Tone

A bit of a let down after the unbridled joy of Sonnet 75, but he is back to being a misery guts here. However, it is all correct form here. He has to pretend to be miserable in order to be as romantic as possible, demonstrating the power his passion, love and affection has over him.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

3 thoughts on “Amoretti: Sonnet 86”

  1. Thank you for all of your helpful resources.
    Could you check that the poem Amoretti: Sonnet 86 on your website is the correct one for the Anthology. This is the one that has come up in my searches:
    Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
    Bound for the prize of all too precious you,
    That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
    Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
    Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
    Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
    No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
    Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
    He, nor that affable familiar ghost
    Which nightly gulls him with intelligence
    As victors of my silence cannot boast;
    I was not sick of any fear from thence:
    But when your countenance fill’d up his line,
    Then lack’d I matter; that enfeebled mine.

    1. Sorry, ignore above comment. It was my dodgy Friday afternoon searching gone awry! Thank you for all of your resources.

      1. Hi Alison,

        You had me in a panic for a moment as I’ve had a few issues finding the right poems for this collection. Thank God it was just Friday afternoon searching problems 😉

        Cheers,

        Mr Sir

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