Spenserian sonnet: A type of sonnet developed by sixteenth-century English poet Edmund Spenser that follows the same basic stanza form as the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet — three quatrains followed by a couplet — but whose rhyme scheme — abab bcbc cdcd ee — links the three quatrains together. The form is rare.
EXAMPLE: The seventy-fifth sonnet from Spenser’s sonnet sequence Amoretti (1595):
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washéd it away:
Agayne I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tyde, and made my paynes his prey.
“Vayne man,” sayd she, “that doest in vaine assay,
A mortall thing so to immortalize,
For I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
And eek my name bee wypéd out lykewize.”
“Not so,” quod I, “let baser things devize
To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name.
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.”
Richard Wilbur’s “Praise in Summer” (1947) is a twentieth-century example of the form.