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A Short Analysis of Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti LXXV: ‘One day I wrote her name upon the strand’

Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti is one of the greatest of the Elizabethan sonnet sequences; after Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella (which was the first great sonnet sequence in English), it is perhaps the greatest of all. Sonnet LXXV from Amoretti, beginning ‘One day I wrote her name upon the strand’, is probably the most famous poem in the cycle, and deserves closer analysis for its innovative use of a popular conceit.

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
‘Vain man,’ said she, ‘that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.’
‘Not so,’ (quod I); ‘let baser things devise Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Introduction to Free Indirect Style

Free indirect style, alternatively known as free indirect speech or free indirect discourse, is a narrative style which requires some explanation and unpicking, since it is subtle and sometimes difficult to spot in a work of fiction. However, it is one of the most powerful tools a writer possesses, and has been used to great effect by writers as diverse as Jane Austen, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence.

What is free indirect style (free indirect speech/free indirect discourse)? Put simply, free indirect style is when the voice of a third-person narrator takes on the style and ‘voice’ of one of the characters within the story or novel. It is, if you will, as if a detached third-person narrator has begun to turn into a first-person narrator, i.e. one of the characters within the story (or novel). The objectivity and detachment we associate with third-person narrators dissolves into the subjective and personal style of a character. Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of the ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’ Nursery Rhyme

‘London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down’: this line appears towards the end of one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Of course, the nursery rhyme or children’s song from which Eliot borrowed this line is much older. But what’s the story behind ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’? First, here’s a recap of the nursery rhyme itself:

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair Lady.

Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair Lady. Read the rest of this entry