How does Edmund Spenser feel pangs of love?

Ice and Fire – 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’d 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.

Genre - Sonnet

Rhyme Scheme -  ab ab/bc bc/cd cd/ee

The Sonnet “ICE AND FIRE” (Number Thirtieth) is taken out from the collection named Amoretti (a collection of 89 sonnets by Edmund Spenser addressed to Elizabeth Boyle). The poem follows the tradition of the Elizabethan Age. Poet has used full of far-fetched turns of thoughts aimed at showing the sad plight of a devoted lover. The lover finds his beloved coldhearted. He calls her heart frozen. The lover describes himself as he is burning and feeling his flames augmented.

|| Analysis ||

The theme of this sonnet is the power of love, which can cause alteration of feelings, emotion, and the natural course of life. This sonnet, therefore, has a very popular subject matter- the lover trying hard to immortalize the relationship. The poem is a sonnet grouped into three quatrains and a couplet. “Spencer splits his poem into four different sections, each section being a question”. The woman in this sonnet is compared to ice whose feelings of coldness keeps her disinterested towards the burning love of the speaker. She is a heartless, insensitive woman who is not ready to meltdown on the speaker's efforts and love. The speaker is thus shocked to notice such a type of behaviour and wonders that his exceeding passions of love are responsible for the increasing indifference in the woman. The speaker surprisingly is hopeful that one day his burning passions of love will melt her down and she will understand his love and true feelings.  Love sometimes seems unattainable but you do not truly know it is out of reach unless you try, Edmund Spenser portrays this message in his poem “My Love is Like to Ice.” This poem was taken out from his literary work the “Amoretti,” which was written as a part of the courtship of his second wife Elizabeth Boyle. This poem can be seen as his struggle for love, knowing the intent of the poet’s reason for writing such beautiful poetry gives us the advantage when analyzing. Spenser uses two interesting elements to convey his feelings and emotions in reference to love to show us why love is mutual and should not be given up just. Symbolism is seen throughout the poem very often with respect to human emotions and feelings. The nature of these two elements shows the reader that there is no such thing as impossible love. Spenser splits his poem into four different sections, each section being a question, which illustrates human emotions and feelings through different states of love. The first section carries its own tone and mood, set by the first line, “My love is like to ice, and I to fire,” Spenser chooses two elements that are incompatible and completely opposite from each other. The speaker in Spenser's sonnet 'My Love Is Like to Ice' is the mask the poet adopts, using an ancient rhetorical device. The poet and the speaker (or persona, which literally means 'mask') are not necessarily the same. You can consider it the perceiving consciousness if you prefer; the main thing is to avoid the confusion and misunderstanding that accompanies the error.

The rhyme scheme of the first quatrain is ABAB/fire, great, desire, entreat; the second is BCBC / heat, cold, sweat, manifold; the third rhymes CDCD / told, ice, cold, device; and the couplet rhymes EE/mind, kind. The rhyme includes near rhyme in great - entreat and heat - sweat. Keep in mind that in Spenser's day, poetry was considered a rhetorical game more often than not.

The first line is a simile that compares his beloved - one to ice and the speaker to a fire that for some reason does not thaw his frozen love. The more he pursues her, the faster she flees (the colder she gets!). There is a 'law of contraries' being created here that defies natural law - those laws like gravity that operate on one and all in normal circumstances. Nevertheless, these are not normal times, the speaker alleges. This is a time for miracles in the realm of romance. We are in a foreign place where the usual laws do not apply.  The couplet resolves the dilemma by sleight of language - the power of love can overrule natural love and change our very nature. Our 'kind' (humankind) can be changed to its very core. 


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