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Edmund Spenser Sonnet 30

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Nuha Guljar

on 12 March 2014

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Transcript of Edmund Spenser Sonnet 30

Edmund Spenser
Sonnet XXX - 'My love is like to ice, and I to fire'

The poem
My love is like to ice, and I to fire:
how comes it then that this her cold so great
is not dissolv'd through my so hot desire,
but harder grows, the more I her entreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
is not delayed by her heart frozen cold,
but that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
and feel my flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told
that fire, which all thing melts, should harden ice:
and ice which is congealed with senseless cold,
should kindle fire by wonderful device?
Such is the pow'r of love in gentle mind
that it can alter all the course of kind.
Form and Structure
Form - Spenserian sonnet, which is composed of three quatrains and a couplet in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme
abab bcbc cdcd ee
. This has the effect of an 'interlocking rhyme', which creates quite a gliding tone - 'but harder grows, the more I her entreat?/Or how comes it that my exceeding heat . Perhaps this is in relatio to his wish to 'seduce' his beloved with the power of his words.

Spenser's use of enjambment: 'How comes it then that this her cold so great is not dissolv'd through my so hot desire.' Presents the inabiility to restrain his feelings. Illustrates an uncontrollable 'outpour' of emotions. Yet, Spenser does focus on the raising of questions and use of commas throughout. The questions reiterate his confused state and the use of commas highlight a subdued and pondering tone
Subject matter
The poem is in the form of a first person perspective, which creates a personal 'voice' for the poet. The speaker is haplessly in love
with a woman who does not have the same
feelings for him. While he constantly 'woos'
her with love, affection and attention, she continues to oppose and disregard his love. Rather letting this discourage him, the speaker allows his love to grow stronger, while she seems to distance herself from him more. The more he falls in love, the colder her heart becomes.

Main message
The tone of this sonnet is very hopeful and devoted, as the writer does not present any negative feelings for his lover not returning his love. He only mentions that her coldness makes his love grow stronger, and essentially he is in awe of his lover. He is devoted solely to her and he is hopeful that one day she will accept his feelings of desire and love for her.

Ultimately, Spenser is commenting that those in love only grow more ardent in their feelings when rejected, presenting the 'chase' in obtaining your lover's heart. Also underlyingly Spenser perhaps also identifies that love too eagerly given becomes less and less appealing. The true philosophy is that love is transcending and should not be undermined in result of rejection.
Sonnet XXX forms part of a sonnet cycle entitled 'Amoretti' by Edmund Spenser. The series of sonnets specifically describes Spenser's courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle. Amoretti was published in 1595: the late 16th century, during the English Renaissance and specifically, the Elizabethan era.
Analysing the second quatrain
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
is not delayed by her heart frozen cold,
but that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
and feel my flames augmented manifold?
Analysing the third quatrain
What more miraculous thing may be told
that fire, which all thing melts, should harden ice:
and ice which is congealed with senseless cold,
should kindle fire by wonderful device?
Analysing the closing rhyming couplet
Such is the pow'r of love in gentle mind
that it can alter all the course of kind.
The use of the phrase 'exceeding heat' shows that his love will never diffuse
The focus is now on the speaker and is questioning why his passion for his love is not deterred by her 'frozen heart.' His feelings are uncontrollable
His love only increases in 'boiling sweat.' The connotations of boiling displays the pains of this love and the enrupting 'flames.' Spenser uses exaggeration for emphasis. His passion and desire for her is immesurable and he can pysically 'feel' his flustering state.
The speaker himself is shocked at his representation of this love and the use of use of the phrase 'more miraculous' displays how strange he feels this ideology is love is. The speaker seems almost confused.
Displays the absurdity of this love, by using the laws of Physics. It is known that fire melts ice. However, the speaker's igniting 'fire' is hardening his love's 'ice. She is repeatedly declining him.
Spenser's use of adjective 'congealed' presents the hardening state of the ice. Spenser views the science of this as a 'wonderful device' that kindles his fire. He is questioning as to how the colness of her heart can satisfy his heart and desires.
The honest love of good intentions 'in gentle mind' has the possibility to 'alter all the course of kind.' The speaker feels his love can 'melt' her ice, cold heart. His love may open her heart and accept his love. This presents the power of love. Presents the 'shift' from the previous focus of the problems this love has established. Gives the sonnet new meaning, in Spenser ultimately 'elevating' the beauty of love.
Analysing the first quatrain
My love is like to ice, and I to fire:
how comes it then that this her cold so great
is not dissolv'd through my so hot desire,
but harder grows, the more I her entreat?
The use of the posessive pronoun 'my' evokes a 'personal' voice of the poet.
Use of simile, presenting the juxtaposition. The speaker is the 'fire' and his love is the 'ice.' Like ice, she is cold whereas his love is like a raging fire, that only grows stronger and never burns out
Spenser displays the strength of her cold heart, describing it as as 'so great.' The use of the verb 'dissolv'd' again reiterates that her 'icy' heart is not dissolving through the speaker's 'hot desire.' The connotations of 'hot desire' shows the overwhelming passion the speaker feels.
The more the speaker's desires become 'hotter', his lover's heart becomes 'colder'
Links to wider reading (poetry)
Link to wider reading (Drama)
Link to Wider Reading (Prose)
AO4 Context
AO4 Context
Techniques/Literary Devices
- Love not being unaccepted/Rejection
- The power/elevation of love
- Overt/explicit declaration of love
- Sexual desire
- Courtly love
- Devotion/idealisation of the beloved

- Paradox between fire and ice
- Metaphors - Heat symbolises his desires 'My exceeding heat is not delayed'. 'her heart frozen cold.' The metaphor illustrates her 'cold' opposition to this love and the absence of desire or heat within. Thus, it could perhaps symbolise her purity and celibacy.
- Figurative language - 'But harder grows the more I her entreat?' The statement has sexual connotations of the bodily functions when being aroused.
- Scientific lexis associated with the state of Physics- 'congealed' 'melt' 'dissolv'd' 'boiling' 'burn'
- Natural lexis

Structure mirrors Spenser's 'journey' of love
Stanza 1 - Introduces the concept of this conflicting love - 'love is like to ice and I to fire.' Love is uncontrollable 'harder grows, the more I her entreat' (Questions why his love has not 'dissolv'd' as an effect
Stanza 2 - Argument develops and desires increase 'exceeding heat' Again ends with question 'but that I burn much more in boiling sweat...feel my flames augmented manifold.' Focus shifts to passion and sexual yearning. 'Climax' of pursuit
Stanza 3 - The sense of this love being of anguish and pain is eradicated, which is presented in the use og the adjectives 'miraculous' and 'wonderful.' Love only seems to grow with the unconventional physics 'kindle fire.'
Final couplet illustrates Spenser's philosophy that love despite its flaws can 'alter all the course of kind' and thus the human condition. The issue raised throughout does not pose a problem on his true thoughts
How It Can Be Incorporated Into the Exam
A Letter to her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment - Anne Bradstreet
Conceit of hot and cold 'His warmth such frigid colds did cause to melt/ My chilled limbs now nummed lie forlorn.' Similarly, both poems explore warmth as a source of sexual passion - both Metaphysical poets. Yet, a contrast can be introduced as suggested by Spenser 'Fire, which all thing melts, should harden ice.' Bradstreet was physically seduced by her husband, which differs to Sonnet 30, as the beloved is unaccepting of Spenser's proposal. Also, it can be noted that Bradstreet presents the 'correct' form of the laws of Physics whereas Spenser presents the laws of Physics that defies convention.
- Spenser was a Metaphysical poet. Meta means
beyond, about, an abstraction
. Physical is in relation to the body and the senses in a 'scientific' form. Thus, metaphysical poetry focuses on sexual desires and the human nature of love.
This can be linked to the scientific references throughout the poem - fire and ice. Then this can be developed in explaining the connotations of passion
- Draws heavily on influence of the 'Petrarchan' lover, as established by Petrarch and his sonnets. He wrote sonnets when consumed with his his idealised beloved 'Laura.' Similarly, the lover's affection is not returned. It is the Petrarchan's notion that when the lover's affection is not returned he
suffers, freezes and burns.
Link can be made to the specific details of language that highlight suffering and burning.
Also, perhaps discuss how Spenser has used the sonnet as a 'vehicle' in wooing his beloved, in line with courtly love which was viewed as respectful.
AO4 Context
AO4 Context
This point of metaphysical characteristics can be developed with the philosophy of
Neoplatonism, which is a form of
idealistic monism.
Links can be made to the sonnet in how Spenser is 'worshipping' his beloved in a spiritual sense. This can be related to the text and the 'conflict' that Spenser is exploring between physical and spiritual love can be explored. However, the 'respectful' approach Spenser utilises here in appreciating female beauty can be contrasted with contemporaries who presented the faults of the female form.
This poem challenges conventional love poetry of the Elizabethan era. Most sonnet sequences of the time presented a speaker who yearned for a lover who is sexually unavailable. Often, the beloved was already married and therefore was classed as an 'adulterous' love. Elizabeth Boyle was an unmarried woman, so this is a distinctive contrast.
Wider reading to support this. Also, the implicit sexual references can be contrasted with wider reading that encompasses much more explicit sexual references.
Valentine - Carol Ann Duffy
Despite Duffy being a modern female poet, both poets explore unconventional forms of love. Duffy likewise to Spenser adopts an extended metaphor. Spenser compares his passion to fire and Duffy's desires are asserted through the symbolic onion given to her beloved. Duffy alludes to implicit sexual allusions similar to Spenser as she states 'You peel an onion' and 'Its taste is strong and lasting.' The peeling of the onion connotes the desire of her lover to perhaps undress her and the taste of an onion as 'strong' and lasting' perhaps is Duffy's argument that her kiss is posessive and fierce. Spenser highlights his uncontrollable lust, as he states that he is experiencing 'exceeding heat' and can sense himself burning in 'boiling sweat.' Both poets assert confident arguments to 'seduce' and 'woo' their beloved in an implicit manner.
The concept of the proposal of love not being accepted can be linked to Shakespeare's representation of the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare likewise to Spenser presents the idealisation of the beloved; although this is evoked more literally by Shakespeare who presents Romeo stating 'If I profane with my unworthiest hand/This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this/My two lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/To smooth that rough tough with a tender kiss. Romeo compares Juliet to a 'shrine', as he wishes to worship her and receive her affection in return. This is similar to Spenser's Sonnet 30, as when Romeo wishes to assert authority in speaking of his lips as 'blushing pilgrims' waiting to be kissed Spenser asserts his growing affection suggested by the verbs 'burn' 'exceeding' and 'boiling.' The references to physicality in Sonnet 30 has a similar dramatic effect to Romeo and Juliet, in being climatic. However, due to the difference in genre readers of Sonnet 30 are only provided with the sole perspective of Spenser whereas Shakespeare presents both Romeo's and Juliet's views through dialogue. The significant difference is that at the end of the scene, Shakespeare presents Juliet accepting Romeo's yearning for a kiss as she states 'Then have my lips the sin that they have took.' However, Sonnet 30 is still in the course of Spenser's 'journey' of love and as marked by the end of the poem, she has not yet accepted.
Sonnet 30 can be contrasted with the restrained expression of love in Murdoch's 'The Sandcastle' through Mor's actions at the train station, yearning to see his beloved Miss Carter. This is established through the third person perspective of the omniscient narrator, stating Mor's journey of wanting to see her as 'Mor stood there, arrested by some obscure feelings of pleasure.' This is similar to Spenser's ideas of love, as his views are 'obscured' by the unacceptance of his beloved and this defying scientific convention. However, whereas Spenser is definite in his conviction of love Murdoch presents uncertainty through the thoughts of Mor, as with 'devastating certainty' he realised that 'He was in love with Miss Carter.' Similarly, as the ending of Sonnet 30 was a revelation of Spenser's thoughts that the 'power of love can alter all the course of kind', readers of this scene in The Sandcastle are exposed to the uncontrollable volocity of Mor's emotions. This is illustrated in the anatomical descriptions of Mor through the narrative with the 'straining of his lungs and the aching of his muscles.' Therefore, it can be concluded that this expression of love is much more implicit in comparison to Sonnet 30, due to the first person perspective.
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