Spenser's first two words, "One day", eschew drama by setting his poem in a vague and unparticularised past. Line 1 tells how he wrote his beloved's name on the beach, and line 2 of how the waves washed that name away. Lines 3 and 4 tell of how he rewrote the name and the sea repeated the act of erasure, this cycle of erasures mimetically echoing the cyclic action of the waves. This cyclic action is emphasised by the repetition of the verbs "wrote" and "came".
These first four lines speak of the uselessness of writing, since the writer's efforts ("paynes") were metaphorically eaten ("made ... his pray") by the tide, here seen as some beast which hunts - or as an incarnation of devouring time.
The first four lines of the octet having described the action of the sea, the second four lines then quote the beloved as explictly drawing a moral from that action, saying "I my selve shall lyke to this decay". The woman meant that she too would be obliterated like words written on the beach. Spenser thus makes explicit the parallel between the transitory words and mortal human life. The octet contains, then, a deliberate step-by-step argument.
By saying that "I my selve shall lyke to this decay", the beloved has acknowledged that the seeds of decay are in herself. This claim permits this sonnet to be related to Christian doctrine in which mortality is an inevitable part of our inheritance in consequence of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Indeed, Spenser ends his sonnet by positing a Christian resurrection which will "later life renew". By contrast, Christian sentiment...