The Spenserian Sonnet


Basic features & history of the verse form:
Number of lines 14
Structure / divisions Three quatrains followed by a couplet
Rhyme scheme abab / bcbc / cdcd / ee
Meter Usually iambic pentameter
Refrain line or lines No
Time / place of origin 16th-century England (modified from the English form by Edmund Spenser)
Medieval / Renaissance poets
  associated with this form
Edmund Spenser
Examples written in English
  by or before —
16th century (Spenser)


An example of a Spenserian sonnet:

One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand
by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

  1. (a)  One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
  2. (b)  But came the waves and washed it away:
  3. (a)  Again I wrote it with a second hand,
  4. (b)  But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
  5. (b)  Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay
  6. (c)  A mortal thing so to immortalize!
  7. (b)  For I myself shall like to this decay,
  8. (c)  And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
  9. (c)  Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
  10. (d)  To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
  11. (c)  My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
  12. (d)  And in the heavens write your glorious name;
  13. (e)  Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue,
  14. (e)  Our love shall live, and later life renew.

A Brief Guide to Some Medieval and Renaissance Verse Forms

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Table and its contents copyright 2002 by Jennifer M. Tom    ( Jennifer Monroe Franson )