Spenser (1595) Sonnet 68 of Edmund Spenser's Amoretti is also known as the Easter Sonnet. Paired with Sonnet 22 (said to invoke Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar), it is central to autobiographical, numero-logical, religious, and calendar / real-time interpretations of the sonnet sequence. Moreover, the number of sonnets between 22 and 68 equals the number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter in 1594, the year of Spenser's marriage. Thus, the calendar and autobiographical interpretations are compelling, despite the contrived nature of such an interpretation.
The religious content of the work is also emergent in this poem, as Spenser links the progress of his courtship with Elizabeth Boyle to the holiness of Christian (specifically Protestant) matrimony. Love within matrimony becomes the way men and women can most closely approach the love of God. For example, Spenser addresses his remarks to the Lord in the three quatrains, only turning to his lady love in the couplet. In fact, while it is clear that he addresses his Lady at the end, asking that their love for one another should imitate what the "Lord us taught," the earthly sentiment between man and woman can easily be conflated with that between humans and heavenly Lord. In this vein, the tension between mutable human life and love, and between the eternity of the Lord's life and love, is demonstrated in each of the first three lines, which reference resurrection and eternal life alongside the potential for the lover and his Lady to "entertayne" (l. 12) each other. This particular sonnet is thus noted for the clarity with which differentiates eternal from human love, and human capacity from the divine.
The otherworldly aspect of this stanza is offset by its presence between Sonnet 67, which makes use of hunting imagery, and Sonnet 69, which invokes warriors and conquest. It is as if the author were trying a range of imagery to define his relationship to the object of his affection rather than establishing the Lord's love as its only "worthy" measure (l. 9). Some critics have used this stanza to highlight the tension throughout the poem between the Neoplatonic philosophy of transcendence (in which human love leads us to divine love) and acknowledgement of human limitations, for human life is "lyke" but not equal to the divine.
See also Amoretti (overview).
Janice M. Bogstad
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