Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion

Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion Summary and Analysis of Amoretti Sonnets 86 through Final Stanzas

Summary of Sonnets 86 through 89

Sonnet 86

The tone of the Amoretti takes another sharp turn, this time into more dangerous territory. Someone, it seems, has told "false forged lyes" to the speaker's beloved (line 7), stirring up in her "coles of yre" (line 8). His fiancee's anger has led to "breaches" in the speaker's "sweet peace" (line 12), possibly even a change of heart in her acceptance of his proposal. Certainly the speaker has only the harshest of terms for the liar, describing a "Venemous tong tipt with vile adders sting" (line 1) and wishing the possessor of that tongue to have "all the plauges and horrid paines, of hell" befall him (lines 5-6). He finishes by cursing the liar to be rewarded by the "shame" and "mischeife" that has been prepared for the speaker due to these lies (lines 13-14).

Sonnet 87

This sonnet mourns the absence of the speaker's beloved, although the words "Since I did leaue the presence of my loue" (line 1) suggests it is the speaker who has gone away, not his fiancee. He wishes time would pass more quickly (lines 5-8), hinting that this separation is some enforced duty of his and not a break in their relationship. He spends the time in expectation of a reunion with this beloved, but finds that time "maketh euery minute seeme a myle" (line 12). In the end he contrasts how sorrow "doth seeme too long to last" while happiness flies "away too fast" (lines 13-14).

Sonnet 88

In another sonnet of woe at the absence of the beloved, the speaker compares his beloved to light, the absence of which causes his to "wander as in darkenesse of that night,/affrayd of euery daungers least dismay" (lines 3-4). He feels lost without her, unsure where to go or what to do. In contrast to the "absence" sonnets prior to their engagement, wherein the speaker took comfort in his idealized inner picture of his beloved, this sonnet expresses a sorrow bordering on depression at the distance between himself and his affirmed fiancee.

Sonnet 89

Spenser ends his series of sonnets on a downbeat note, again fixated on his beloved's absence. Like a bird mourning her missing mate, he too feels that his reunion with his beloved "seemes to linger late" (line 4). There is genuine despair expressed here; despair that he has been (or will be) left alone and "disconsolate" (line 5). As in Sonnet LXXXVIII, the speaker finds himself "wandring here and there all desolate" (line 7). No joy that exists under heaven that can comfort him, unless it be "her owne ioyous sight" (line 9-10). His days are dark while her light is gone, and his life "that wants such liuely blis" is dead (line 14).

Analysis of Sonnets 86 through 89

In keeping with the sonnet-cycle convention, Spenser here introduces an element of loss into the relationship between the lover and his beloved. Hinting that it is some terribly lie that has angered her and caused her to leave, the speaker spends the remaining sonnets mourning the absence of the beloved. It is significant that he sees her as absent rather than lost--the faint hope of the earliest sonnets has developed into a more firm belief that, though they are separated, the two will be together again in the future and their marriage finally come to pass.

Summary and Analysis of Final Stanzas

The final stanzas of Amoretti discuss Cupid's various antics as a way of examining the nature of love.

Cupid is first mentioned as having urged the speaker, as a child, to reach into a beehive for the sweet honey within. The speaker did so, only to be stung by the bees while Cupid fled. Through this experience, the speaker is claiming to have learned that pleasure and pain go hand in hand, echoing the sentiments in the first section of Amoretti. Cupid's flight emphasizes the arbitrary nature of love and is developed further in these stanzas.

The second section of stanzas absolves Cupid of some guilt. Here, Cupid is caught sleeping by Diane, goddess of the hunt. In an act of mischief, Diane switches one of Cupid's love-inducing arrows with one of her own deadly shafts. Cupid unknowingly pulls this arrow from his quiver when taking aim at the speaker, thus causing the speaker more pain than love.

Together, these first two sections emphasize the acute pain felt by an unrequited lover. Just as the suitor feels himself tormented by the lover in the earlier sonnets, here the speaker gives the cause of such pain--the abstract concept that love and harm are interconnected, or the arbitrary will of pernicious godlings.

The third section of the final stanzas offers Cupid a chance to learn the results of his own actions. They focus almost entirely on an incident involving Cupid and Venus. As a child, Cupid is annoyed by a bee buzzing around him as he tries to rest. His mother warns him to leave the bee alone, but Cupid instead impetuously grabs the bee in his hand. He is, of course, stung and releases the bee; his mother attempts to soothe him while teaching him a lesson: he has had no pity on many mortals whom his arrows have "stung," so perhaps he should show the same kindness to them that she is now showing to him. Cupid, however, misses the lesson entirely and goes on arbitrarily firing his arrows at mortals without thought for the consequences of unrequited love. At the end of this section the speaker returns to himself as the target of Cupid's indifferent attentions, resigning himself to languish in unconsummated love until Cupid sees fit to end his suffering.