Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt

There is a new book about the famous poet of Henry VIII's court. ( Via Writing the Renaissance)
Wyatt was pre-eminently a court poet, writing for a private audience. None of his poems was published in his lifetime – they survived in manuscript collections, one of which (Egerton MS 2711 in the British Library) contains more than 100 lyrics, mostly in his own hand, and some extensively reworked on the page. They are of interest to literary history for their pioneering use of continental forms, particularly the Petrarchan sonnet; but for Shulman they are mostly of interest as a veiled but intimate account of life inside the claustrophobic court of Henry VIII, with its fretful young men and women "fettered with chains of gold", its jockeying for power and prestige, and those sudden and often fatal reversals of political fortune which are hinted at in the opening lines of Wyatt's most famous poem: "They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot, stalking in my chamber."

....An earlier poem about Anne [Boleyn] is a sonnet cast in the familiar guise of a hunting metaphor: "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, / But as for me, hélas, I may no more." It is not hard to see the weary hunter as the warned-off lover of Anne, and the last lines tend to confirm this:
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold though I seem tame.
Gareth Russell discusses Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn, HERE and HERE. Share

1 comment:

Gareth Russell said...

Thank you for the link. "Graven with Diamonds" is on my wish list!