Sonnet 30 Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser

sonnet 30 Edmund Spenser

Sonnet 30 in Edmund Spenser’s ‘Amoretti’ picturizes the relationship between the poet and his beloved Elizabeth Boyle. The poet says in this poem that the emotions he experiences being in love with her are like fire and the indifference displayed by his beloved to his emotions is as cold as ice. Despite that they both have been interacting continuously, his deep love has been unable to remove her indifference and her constant indifference has been unable to diminish her passion by any degree. The poet finds it strange how such opposite aspects have been strengthening, rather than weakening, one another. He has used fire and ice as symbols to suggest that their respective emotions are as opposite as these two are but love has such unique tendency that the fire and the ice are intensifying each other’s effect being in touch with one another.

The sonnet has some unique features. It is autobiographical; presents a paradox; uses a metaphor based on an experience belonging to human experiences; and, uses this metaphor to present some particular features of the feeling of love.

The sonnet has an autobiographical undertone. The lover and beloved in the sonnet are, respectively, Spenser and Elizabeth Boyle. The response given by the latter to the former’s efforts to woo her gets represented in the feelings of the beloved mentioned in this sonnet. The way the beloved has been mentioned to ignore all the efforts made by the lover and the manner in which the indifference of the beloved leads the lover to show even more intensity in courting her in the sonnet is similar to the case of Spenser and Elizabeth Boyle.

The sonnet has also presented a paradox by suggesting that, in the case the poet deals with, fire and ice strengthen one another rather than acting against each other. In simple terms, the poet has compared the passion of love that his heart holds to fire and the tenacity displayed by his beloved to the coldness of ice. He is suggesting that the two should affect one another being extremes of the same concept but, amazingly, neither is getting affected negatively. The depth of his love should be able to convince his beloved to entertain his amorous approach but it has not happened despite his desperate and continuous efforts. On the other hand, the incessant exhibition of indifference on the part of his beloved should have affected his passion negatively and should have reduced the extent of love he feels for her. However, her unresponsiveness has rather added to the intensity of his feelings. So, the poet presents his confusion on how both the concerned persons are behaving in an unexpected manner.

The sonnet, when considered in details, presents an analysis of the concept of love. It suggests that love acts in a strange manner. The indifference of the beloved enhances the vigour of the lover rather than forcing it to diminish. The coldness of beloved’s response too gets strengthened by consistent efforts on the part of the lover to court her. It is not necessary for her to react in the usual manner to the efforts of persuasion. So, love is so strong that it could influence human mind to act against what is considered natural. The poet states that he is unable to understand how such strange inter-relationship is possible. Moreover, despite feeling that his actions are, somewhat, strange, he has been unable in controlling his feelings.

Sonnet 30 Edmund Spenser

My love is like to ice, and I to fire:

How comes it then that this her cold so great

Is not dissolved through my so hot desire,

But harder grows the more I her entreat?

Or how comes it that my exceeding heat

Is not allayed 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 things melts, should harden ice,

And ice, which is congeal’s with senseless cold,

Should kindle fire by wonderful device?

Such is the power of love in gentle mind,

That it can alter all the course of kind.

 Useful links:

Edmund Spenser in Wikipedia

Edmund Spenser in Poetry Foundation