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 )