Edmund Spenser

Sonnet 68 by Edmund Spenser

‘Sonnet 68’ is a segment of Amoretti, a true love calendar that picturizes Spenser’s courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle.

Sonnet 68 is a segment of Amoretti, a true love calendar that pictures Edmund Spenser’s courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle in 1594.  Amoretti, a sonnet cycle consisting of 89 sonnets and a series of short poems called Anacreontics and Epithalimion written in Petrarchan manner and first published in 1595 in London by William Ponsonby.

Spencer’s attitude is the most appropriate of courtly love that is manifested by Petrarch in his love era. This sonnet is a wonderful mixture of love and the Lord that makes the reader feel its holistic values.

Sonnet 68 - Easter
Edmund Spenser

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Sonnet 68 by Edmund Spenser



History of Petrarchan Sonnets

The 13th century Italy is considered as the origin of sonnets and Dante, the father, dedicated the sonnets to his beloved Beatrice. But Petrarch evolved a new pattern of his own. He made the new sonnets the way to express human feelings. Both Dante and Petrarch idealized love but Petrarch to the earthly plane, vibrating the warm heartbeats of the lover.

With the newly evolved Renaissance, the intense love for beauty, both celestial and earthly inculcated into men’s minds. As Petrarch was influenced by Renaissance Humanism, his sonnets spoke about the glory of human love. The sonnets are composed of an octave followed by a sestet giving it a sort of revelation. It is like a returning wave.


Summary

Sonnet 68′ tells, through its matured structure, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. And thanking him for saving lives and asking the strength to love him and every human being.

The poem ‘Easter sonnet’, or Sonnet 68, by the 16th-century preeminent English poet Edmund Spencer, is a wonderful religious piece of literature, that is inspired by Easter day. Easter is also known as Pascha is a Christian festival and cultural holiday that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion, the day when Father brought back Son’s life and took him to heaven. The poet glorifies Christ’s sacrifice for mankind and praises his path of love, his win against the sins, and death itself. The day is celebrated though it has a bitter part of Christ’s Crucifixion.

Themes

The theme, that this religious sonnet swirls around is the reminisce of the dynamic power of Jesus Christ’s love and his death by crucifying, as the sacrifice for the redemption of mankind, loving each other and preaching the mantras of love among the people, following God and his path, engaging in healing each other, encouraging the giving of alms to the poor. His battle against the sins of the world and the way he wins against it, even though that drags him to his nemesis, shows the extreme power of his knowledge of love, kindness, affection, and also makes others devote their lives to preach Christ’s path, knowledge, affection, and kindness.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-4

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:

Easter or Resurrection Sunday is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. It is the third day after his burial as described in the New Testament. In the first quatrain of the poem where the poet entitles Jesus Christ, the glorious person ever seen on the earth, and calls him the superior of life. On Easter day, he came back to life after his death by crucifixion, winning the battle against sins, death. He won against death because he was resurrected and against sins because he was taken to Heaven and this inspired the people who haven’t done any sin and believed him, the prophet of God. He bore all the painful experiences while crucifixion and won the clash against Hell with his trust in love and God.

In the last line of the first quatrain of ‘Sonnet 68‘, there are two words, ‘captivity’ and ‘captive’. The word ‘captive’ denotes the pre-Christ situation. The poet talks about how mankind was the hostages of Paganism, worshipped stones and after believing in God and Christ, they become captive in a positive way because it was love, that made them bow their heads. That’s why Easter day is celebrated though it has its saddest part, i.e the death of Christ.

Lines 5-8

This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.

Jesus Christ was the preacher of Love. As his death draped the world with the rob of darkness, his resurrection brought joy, tearing the darkness that made the world blind. So the real joy started when Jesus came back to life after the crucifixion. His death began with sadness because he died for others and ended with hope because he was resurrected as he lived for love. The poet talks in a proud tone of Christ’s love and expects that all the humans will love each other as Christ did. Jesus didn’t die like everyone, his blood washed away all the sins of others, his death was for redemption.

Lines 9-12

And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.

The poet asks every person to love each other for Christ’s sake and also for their sake. Love gives birth to Love. As all humans are loved by God, everyone should love each other.

Lines 13-14

So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

‘Sonnet 68’ ends with a euphony that says every person should follow Jesus’s mantras, his love, passion, and obey his teachings by loving one another, spreading the heavenly love.

Structure and Form

The uniqueness of the structure of this poem is the interlocking web pattern. ‘Sonnet 68′ is divided into three quatrains added with a couplet that helps to serve more than one turning point differentiating it from the traditional Petrarchan sonnet that has one turning point or volta. The first volta is in the fifth line because the poet from the beginning tells about the struggles of Jesus, his death, his sacrifices and suddenly asks the readers to be happy about it, and the second turning point is in the ninth line, and the last one is in the couplet which is more like a determination. The poet suggests his lover ‘deare Love’ to love each other because it’s God’s command.

Literary Devices

The poet has used some literary devices in the poem:

  • Archaism is the use of archaic words like thy, thence, deare.
  • Alliteration, is the repetition of letters, like the /h/ sounds.
  • Occasional Poem is a type of poem that is written on a particular day. In this case, ‘Sonnet 68′ is based on Easter day or Resurrection Sunday.


Prosody:

Most glor’ / i_ous Lord’ / of life,’ / that on’ / this day,’

The leading meter is the Iambic Pentameter of the first line.

The rhyme pattern is the Spenserian pattern, being ababbcbccdcd ee.

FAQs

What is the form of the poemEaster’ by Edmund Spenser?

The poem Easter‘ orSonnet 68 is a religious poem telling the tales of Easter day. The poem is written in the typical Spenserian pattern. The meter is an Iambic Pentametre that contains five iambic feet or lambs per line. The lines are constructed with a leading unstressed word and followed by a stressed word (  ×  /   ×   /   ×   /   ×   /   ×   /).

What is the tone of ‘Sonnet 68?’

The poem ‘Easter’ is no doubt a religious poem. The tone is the celebration of Easter day but it ends with a different tone. The ending couplet carries the amalgamation of love and religion. The teachings of Jesus are smoothly mixed with the conversation of love. The poet asks to apply Christ’s teaching of love in the real life, with the loved persons.

What type of love is Edmund Spenser writing about in his poem ‘Sonnet 68?’

In the poem ‘Sonnet 68,’ Edmund Spenser is talking about unrequited love i.e the unreturned love that Jesus Christ spread among mankind till his death and also after his resurrection. The poet is mentioning the love that not only heals others’ wounds but also gives strength to stand for them. The love that restores the faith in humanity, and drives them to sing the same song.

How does Spenser describe the different forms of love and beauty?

Edmund Spenser describes love and beauty in two ways, sensuous and divine. He believed that earthly love and beauty find their worth in the divine ones. He showed that these kinds are not different from each other in fact, they complete each other. Spenser, mostly in his every poem practices this sense of love and beauty.

What is a Spenserian sonnet and how does it differ from other sonnets?

The main names in the sonnet family are the Shakespearean sonnets and Petrarchan sonnets. Though Spenserian sonnets found their inspiration from the sonnets of Petrarch, it is knitted with interlocking quatrains. Spenserian sonnets deal with both earthly love and divine love, and the repetition of the rhyme and the ending couplet makes them prominent in this field.


Similar Poetry

People who loved this sonnet may enjoy reading these other Edmund Spenser poems:

  • ‘The Faerie Queen is all about one’s duties, responsibilities that one should perform well. The seven books have different heroes performing their duties. The six main virtues of this poem are holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy.
  • The Sovereign Beauty Which I Do Admire‘ tells the struggle to justify a woman’s beauty.
  • ‘Like as a Huntsmanshows the miserable state of a lovee, who like a huntsman chases his love and fails.

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Meghamitra Goswami Poetry Expert
About
Meghamitra graduated with a degree in English Literature and has pursued a Masters degree to further her education. She has her own blog on literature and loves to analyze poetry on Poem Analysis.
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