Not many people know what a sonnet is. It is actually a special form of poem; it contains fourteen lines and a Volta. It is designed to have a tight rhyming scheme but not as so it is apparent when reading it. There are two styles of sonnet, Shakespearian and Petrach. These poems I have studied are a mixture of both but they all contain the emotions and messages of immortality and love through the telling of personal stories.
The first poem "One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand", deals with the ideas of immortality through the love you share with someone. Spenser bases the sonnet on trying to prove a point with his spouse;
"A moral thing so to immortalise".
It sees the character try to write the name of the woman he loves on the beach. This is a symbol of him trying to prove his side of the argument, but the sea comes and washes it away, much like the idea of time destroying all, as his wife said it would. He tries again but this time with a different hand, this is him changing his style to see if it will work, but it doesn't;
"But came the sea and made my pains his prey"
Spenser refers to the sea as "he" this could also be referring to the character of father time, that time destroys all and he cannot stop it. The reason he is so upset and reluctant in his task is the task of trying to eternise his love for this woman, and because he loves her so much he wants to share her with the world.
Spenser makes bold opinions upon the idea f immortality and how he can capture it through writing;
"Let baser things die in dust", "virtues rare shall eternise, "all the world subdue", "later life renew".
In the second bit of the poem, Spenser has his wife talk and express her opinions on his bold claims, she doesn't share the same view as him, she hurts him when she says;
"I myself shall like to this decay".
Spenser sets the next section of the poem to him contradicting hr, putting his argument forward;
""Not so," qouth I "let baser things devise to die in dust".
He makes his quest to immortalise his love for her seem like some sort of godly quest to defied time and decay;
"And in the heavens write your glorious name".
I believe that Spenser knew all along that he was right as his last two lines are very relevant;
"Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew"
That by us reading this poem, studying it and learning of the love he had for this woman their memories live on. Though I do feel the poem is quite contradictive, as for the poem he goes on about him eternising her when for the whole poem he doesn't even mention her name.
The idea of immortality is also shown in "Ozymandias", Shelly writes a story of a great leader who tries to immortalise himself through monuments and statues;
"Half sunk, a shattered visage lies".
Shelly shows that even though he created these great statures and monuments he failed in his visage of being immortalised in them;
"Nothing besides remains", "boundless and bare".
Shelly shows that attempts to immortalise someone, no matter how powerful they are/were don't always work.
The contrasts between these two poems show that it is not always possible to immortalise someone that the reasons for which you do it, also have a lot to do with whether it will succeed. In Spenser's poem he immortalises his wife because he loves her so, bit in Shelly's poem the king wants to immortalise himself because he feels he deserves it;
""My name is Ozymandias, king or kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair"".
In the end it turns out his attempt to immortalise himself through his monuments fails but Spenser succeeds because he did it for the right reasons.
The poem "How do I Love Thee" by Browning captures the idea of everlasting or classical love. Browning splits the poem into different rhyming stanzas, each one expressing the different feelings of love for her man;
"I lobe thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach",
These are all physical measures Browning uses to give the reader something palpable to imagine about the man she is describing.
Throughout the poem Browning makes frequent references to religion and God;
"Lost saints", "Ideal grace", "if God chooses", "Praise".
This creates a link between the passion she feels for her man and the passion for which she hold he religion and faith. Also, Browning uses words such as;
"Praise", "Grace", "Purely" and "Soul".
These words reflect happy feeling and make the reader feel that even when she writes about her love she's ecstatically happy.
"By sun or candle light I love thee freely",
This section is a metaphor for her love for this man when the times are good and when they are bad, that she will love him without feeling differently. This reinforces the idea to the readers that she loves him very deeply and that her love is true.
Browning starts a large section of the lines with the words;
"I love thee . . . . ."'
This is a constant reminder of her love, and by repeating it she hopes to get the idea drummed into the readers mind. By also doing this Browning creates the feeling as if the poem was a conversation between two lovers, trying to outdo each other with their metaphors for how much one loves the other. As this is a quite familiar image it makes the poem more believable.
At the end of the poem Browning links her love with the idea of immortality, and her love lasting for ever and again, like in Spenser's poem it being remembered through the poem;
"I shall love thee better after death".
The way Browning expresses her love is in stark contrast to the way Sidney does in his poem "Loving in Truth, and Fain in Verse my Love to Show". In this poem Sidney struggles to express his love for this woman he has liked for a long time. In the first part of the poem he comes up with an elaborate plan to make this woman fall in love with him, it involves hi writing a sonnet of such greatness that she will fall in love with him instantly;
"Knowledge might win pity, and pity grace obtain".
From this first section the reader gets the feeling that he is writing for all the wrong reasons, even if it is to show his love for this woman he is going about it rather sneakily. You feel that if he really loves her he should tell her face to face.
The next section details his attempts to write his sonnet, and tries to find inspiration for his sonnet. Though if his love is as strong for this woman as Browning's was for her husbands then he shouldn't need to find inspiration;
"Sought fit words", "study inventions", "turning others leaves".
Sidney lists all these ways in which he tries to find some shred of inspiration but after a while he finds he has writes block;
"But words came halting forth".
This annoys him greatly as all he wants to do is be with this woman and he feels this is the only way he can do it;
"Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite".
At this point in the poem the reader feels as if Sidney will never finish his sonnet. Sidney uses words like;
"Helpless", "in my way", and "fled",
to try and describe his levels of frustration, and what he feels and blocking his way. This is how Sidney differs from Browning, where Browning's writing flows freely Sidney is troubled to get his emotions out and this makes the poem slower and more broken. Though his use a basic A, B, A, B rhyming scheme it still maintains a rhythm that is similar to "How Do I Love Thee".
At the climax it seems as if Sidney will give up and stop writing, but Sidney turns the poem around with the introduction of another person's point of view;
""Fool", said my muse to me "Look in thy heart and write"",
the influence from his muse was all that Sidney needed to write form the heart, from here you feel that Sidney will have no trouble finishing his sonnet now that he has been shown the way. But cleverly Sidney doesn't write on to describe the reactions of the woman or if he even writes it, this still leaves question, has his plan worked, did he find what he was looking for.
The ways in which Browning describes her love is very similar to the way William Shakespeare describes love in his poem "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Mind". Shakespeare sets down what could be described as guidelines, for what true love is and isn't;
"Love is not love . . . . . . . O no, it is an ever-fixed mark".
That even in death it still lives and it is strongest of all things;
"Within his bending sickle's compass come".
This statement links in with the final line of "How Do I Love Thee" that love after death is possible. Shakespeare is so confident in his feelings that he states;
"If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved".
I have enjoyed studying these sonnets and found seeing the links between them to be very interesting. I look forward studying more poems on immortality and love.