Thomas Wyatt's Poetry Page

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Thomas Wyatt's Poetry Page - The Tudors Wiki
Thomas Wyatt, the Elder's
poetry page
(Lines highlighted in orange are
used in the series for easy reference)

Known as
'The Father of English Poetry'

Wyatt's work divides into two groups:
- the sonnets, rondeaus, songs, and lyric poems
- the satires and the penitential psalms

Ninety-six songs were first published in 1557 in Songes and Sonettes (Tottel's Miscellany). Wyatt pioneered the sonnet in English verse, writing 31 sonnets, of which 10 were translations from Petrarch. None of his poems appeared in his lifetime.

Wyatt's best work is probably contained in his 200 songs, their main theme
- his ill-treatment at the hands of his mistress.

Wyatt's best songs and poems include
"What No, Perdie," "Tagus, Farewell," "Lux, My Fair Falcon," "Forget Not Yet," "Blame Not My Lute," "My Lute, Awake," "In Eternum," "They Flee from Me," and "Once in Your Grace."

<a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="*Listen to one of Wyatts poems (Robin) set to music here *">*Listen to one of Wyatts poems (Robin) set to music here *</a>

Book of Sir Thomas Wyatt
Thomas Wyatt's handwriting
<embed allowfullscreen="true" height="278" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="344" wmode="transparent"/>
Source: <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">poetryanimations</a>

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<embed allowfullscreen="true" height="223" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="367" wmode="transparent"/>
It's a convention that a poet will refer to his muse as his "lute", his "lyre" or his "song"

<a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Special thanks to : </a><a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">SpokenVerse</a>



WHOSO list to hunt ? I know where is an hind !
But as for me, alas ! I may no more,
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore ;
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer ; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow ; I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt
As well as I, may spend his time in vain !
And graven with diamonds in letters plain,
There is written her fair neck round about ;
' Noli me tangere ; for Cæsar's I am,*
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.'

[based upon Petrarch's sonnet #190. The Latin phrase 'Noli me tangere' is taken from the Vulgate; it is translated as 'Touch me not'. Scholars generally believe the poem is a direct comment upon Henry VIII's infatuation for Anne, her character, and her newfound importance at the English court, such that when Wyatt speaks of the deer as royal property not to be hunted by others, he is acknowledging that Anne has become the property of the King (Caesar) alone. Wyatt was said to have been interested in Anne—and may have been her lover—but would have withdrawn as a suitor after the King made clear his wish to claim her.]
* This line is spoken by Lady Ursula Misseldon, a fictional character in Season 3 of the series


Some time I fled the fire that me brent
By sea, by land, by water and by wind;
And now I follow the coals that be quent,
From Dover to Calais against my mind.
Lo how desire is both sprung and spent!
And he may see that whilom was so blind,
And all his labour now he laugh to scorn,
Meshed in the briars that erst was all to-torn.

[This seems to have been written around 1532, when Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn went to Calais accompanied by Wyatt. This sounds as though Wyatt was seriously in love and, now cured, was thinking of what a fool he'd been; but as always, the question is: how seriously do we take it, and how much is simply an expression of courtly love? ]


The Riddle
What word is that that changeth not,
Though it be turned and made in twain?
It is mine answer, God it wot,
And eke the causer of my pain.
It love rewardeth with disdain:
Yet is it loved. What would ye more?
It is my health eke and my sore.
[The answer to the riddle is the epigram Anna which is also thought to refer to Anne Boleyn]


Lucks, my falcon, and your fellows all,
How well pleasant it were your liberty!
Ye not forsake me that fair might ye befall.
But they that sometime liked my company
Like lice away from dead bodies they crawl.
Lo, what a proof in light adversity!
But ye, my birds, I swear by all your bells,
Ye be my friends and so be but few else

[almost certainly refers to Anne Boleyn and members of her affinite, who wore the image of a falcon on the badges that identified them]

If waker care, if sudden pale colour,
If many sighs, with little speech to plain,
Now Joy, now woe, if they my cheer disdain,
For hope of small, if much to fear therefore;
To haste to slack my pace less or more,
Be sign of love, then do I love again.
If thou ask whom; sure, since I did refrain
Her that did set our country in a roar,*
Th'unfeigned cheer of Phyllis hath the place
That Brunet had; she hath and ever shall.
She from myself now hath me in her grace:
She hath in hand my wit, my will, my all.
My heart alone well worthy she doth stay,
Without whose help, scant do I live a day.
[Commonly held belief that the 'Brunet' that "set the country in a roar" was Anne Boleyn & Phyllis was Elizabeth Darrell]

* Thomas Wyatt says this line in Season 1 of the series

In Mourning wise since daily I increase,
Thus should I cloak the cause of all my grief;
So pensive mind with tongue to hold his peace'My reason sayeth there can be no relief:
Wherefore give ear, I humbly you require,
The affect to know that thus doth make me moan.
The cause is great of all my doleful cheer
For those that were, and now be dead and gone.

What thought to death desert be now their call.
As by their faults it doth appear right plain?
Of force I must lament that such a fall should light on those so wealthily did reign,
Though some perchance will say, of cruel heart,
A traitor's death why should we thus bemoan?
But I alas, set this offence apart,
Must needs bewail the death of some be gone.
As for them all I do not thus lament,
But as of right my reason doth me bind;
But as the most doth all their deaths repent,
Even so do I by force of mourning mind.
Some say, 'Rochford, haddest thou been not so proud,
For thy great wit each man would thee bemoan,
Since as it is so, many cry aloud
It is great loss that thou art dead and gone.'

Ah! Norris, Norris, my tears begin to run
To think what hap did thee so lead or guide
Whereby thou hast both thee and thine undone
That is bewailed in court of every side;
In place also where thou hast never been
Both man and child doth piteously thee moan.
They say, 'Alas, thou art far overseen
By thine offences to be thus deat and gone.'

Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou diddest speak with tongue,
So well esteemed with each where thou diddest fare.
And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind doth thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep that thou are dead and gone.

Brereton farewell, as one that least I knew.
Great was thy love with divers as I hear,
But common voice doth not so sore thee rue
As other twain that doth before appear;
But yet no doubt but they friends thee lament
And other hear their piteous cry and moan.
So doth eah heart for thee likewise relent
That thou givest cause thus to be dead and gone.
Ah! Mark, what moan should I for thee make more,
Since that thy death thou hast deserved best,
Save only that mine eye is forced sore
With piteous plaint to moan thee with the rest?
A time thou haddest above thy poor degree,
The fall whereof thy friends may well bemoan:
A rotten twig upon so high a tree
Hath slipped thy hold, and thou art dead and gone.

And thus farewell each one in hearty wise!
The axe is home, your heads be in the street;
The trickling tears doth fall so from my eyes
I scarce may write, my paper is so wet.
But what can hope when death hath played his part,
Though nature's course will thus lament and moan?
Leave sobs therefore, and every Christian heart
Pray for the souls of those be dead and gone.

[[[Thomas Wyatt]] mentions Rochford (George Boleyn), Henry Norris,Francis Weston & Mark Smeaton's deaths but fails to mention Anne Boleyn]


'Ye Olde Mule'

Ye old mule that think yourself so fair,
Leave off with craft your beauty to repair,
For it is true, without any fable,
No man setteth more by riding in your saddle.
Too much travail so do your train appair.
Ye old mule

With false savour though you deceive th'air,
Whoso taste you shall well perceive your lair
Savoureth somewhat of a Kappurs stable.
Ye old mule

Ye must now serve to market and to fair,
All for the burden, for panniers a pair.
For since gray hairs been powdered in your sable,
The thing ye seek for, you must yourself enable
To purchase it by payment and by prayer,
Ye old mule.

['The thing ye seek for' is, of course, sex. This work, though undated, was probably written after Anne and Henry were wed in 1533. Perhaps Wyatt had been rebuffed by Anne once again; the poem is certainly churlish enough.]

, Love,- and all thy laws forever,
Thy baited hooks shall tangle me no more;
Senec and Plato call me from thy lore,
To perfect wealth my wit for to endeavor.
In blind error when I did persever,
Thy sharp repulse, that pricketh aye so sore,
Hath taught me to set in trifles no store
And 'scape forth since liberty is lever.
Therefore farewell, go trouble younger hearts,
And in me claim no more authority;
With idle youth go use thy property,
And thereon spend thy many brittle darts.
For hitherto though I have lost all my time,
Me lusteth no longer rotten boughs to climb.


They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle tame and meek
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
And therewithal sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, Dear heart, how like you this?
It was no dream, I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindely am served,
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.

*These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure,
circa Regna tonat.

[Written after his own incarceration in the Tower of London in 1536 - circ regna tonat = around the throne thunder rolls]
* Thomas Wyatt is seen writing these words in his cell as the five men are executed in Season 2 episode 9

AND wilt thou leave me thus ?
Say nay ! say nay ! for shame
To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and grame.1
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
Say nay ! Say nay !

And wilt thou leave me thus ?
That hath lov'd thee so long ?
In wealth and woe among :
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus ?
Say nay ! Say nay !
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
That hath given thee my heart
Never for to depart ;
Neither for pain nor smart :
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
Say nay ! Say nay !
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
And have no more pity,
Of him that loveth thee ?
Alas ! thy cruelty !
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
Say nay ! Say nay !

* Thomas Wyatt recites this poem to Anne Boleyn in Season 1 as he sits in a tree while she lays on the grass beneath him

FORGET not yet the tried intent
Of such a truth as I have meant ;
My great travail so gladly spent,
Forget not yet !

Forget not yet when first began
The weary life ye know, since whan
The suit, the service none tell can ;
Forget not yet !

Forget not yet the great assays,
The cruel wrong, the scornful ways,
The painful patience in delays,
Forget not yet !

Forget not ! oh ! forget not this,
How long ago hath been, and is
The mind that never meant amiss
Forget not yet !

Forget not then thine own approv'd,
The which so long hath thee so lov'd,
Whose steadfast faith yet never mov'd :
Forget not this !
My Lute Awake
My labor that thou and I shall waste
And end that I have now begun,
For when this song is sung and past,
My lute, be still, for I have done.

As to be heard where ear is none,
As lead to grave in marble stone,
My song may pierce her heart as soon.
Should we then sigh or sing or moan?
No, no, my lute, for I have done.

Proud of the spoil that thou hast got
Of simple hearts through love's shot,
By whom, unkind, thou hast them won,
Think not he hath his bow forgot,
Although my lute and I have done.

Vengance shall fall on thy disdain
That makest but game on earnest pain;
Think not alone under the sun
Unquit to cause thy lovers plain
Although my lute and I have done.

Perchance thee lie withered and old
The winter nights that are so cold,
Plaining in vain unto the moon;
Thy wishes then dare not be told.
Care then who list, for I have done.

And then may chance thee to repent
The time that thou hast lost and spnt
To cause thy lovers sigh and swoon;
Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
And wish and want as I have done.

Now cease, my lute, this is the last
Labor that thou and I shall waste
And ended is that we begun.
Now is the song both sung and past;
My lute, be still, for I have done.
Golden Hind
My galley chargèd with forgetfulness
Through sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
'Twene rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness.
And every oar a thought in readiness
As though that death were light in such a case;
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forcèd sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain
Hath done the wearied cords great hindrance,
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain,
Drownèd is reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.


In this also see you be not idle:
Thy niece, they cousin, thy sister or thy daughter,
If she be fair, if handsome by her middle,
If thy better hath her love besought her,
Advance his cause, and he shall help thy need,
It is but love, turn it to a laughter.
But 'ware, I say, so gold thee help and speed,
that in this case thou be no so unwise
As Pandar was in such a like deed:
For he, the fool, of conscience was so nice
That he no gain would have for all his pain.

[Thomas knew the value of a sister, daughter etc who caught the King's eye & explained it to aspiring courtiers in this poem]

*In Season 2 Episode 2, Wyatt recites 3 lines from the following poem which he puts in Lady Elizabeth Darrell's pocket.It was not written by Wyatt at all. It is a poem by Sir Walter Raleigh

"A poem put into Lady Laiton's pocket"

Lady, farewell, whom I in silence serve!
Would God thou knewest the depth of my desire!
Then might I wish though nought I can deserve,
Some drops of grace to slake my scalding fire;

But sith to live alone I have decreed,
I'll spare to speak, that I may spare to speed!"

The Courtier's Life
In court to serve decked with fresh array,
Of sugared meats feeling the sweet repast:
The life in banquets, and sundry kinds of play,
Amid the press of lordly looks to waste,
Hath with it joined oft times such bitter taste.
That who so enjoys such kind of life to hold,
In prison joys fettered with chains of gold.


The pillar perished is whereto I leant,
Whereon the strongest stay of mine unquiet mind—
The like of it no man again can find,
From east to west, still seeking though he went: always
To mine unhap! for hap away hath rent misfortune fortune
Of all my joy the very bark and rind;
And I, alas, by chance am thus assigned
Dearlyº to mourn till death do it relent. keenly
But since that thus it is by destiny,
What can I more but have a woeful heart—
My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry, lamentation
My mind in woe, my body full of smart,
And I my self, my self always to hate
Till dreadful death do ease my doleful state?

(Wyatt's court elegy on the death of Thomas Cromwell, an imitation of Petrarch's own sonnet on Cardinal Colonna - Rotta e l'alta colonna e 'l verde lauro (Broken are the high column and the green laurel) - source: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell by John Schofield and The Cambridge History of Early English Literature.)
He Ruleth not though he reign over realms, that is subject to his own lusts

If thou wilt mighty be, flee from the rage
Of cruel will, and see thou keep thee free
From the foul yoke of sensual bondage;
For though thy Empire stretch to Indian sea
And for thy fear trembleth the farthest Thule,
If thy desire have over thee the power,
Subject then art thou and no governor.

If to be noble and high thy mind be moved,
Consider well thy ground and thy beginning;
For he that hath each star in heaven fixed,
And gives the Moon her horns and her eclipsing,
Alike hath made thee noble in his working:
So that wretched no way thou may be,
Except foul lust and vice do conquer thee.

All were it so thou had a flood of gold
Unto thy thirst, yet should it not suffice;
And though with Indian stones, a thousandfold
More precious than can thy self devise
Ycharged were thy back: thy covetise
And busy biting yet should never let
Thy wretched life, ne do thy death profit.

*Mark Smeaton recites these words as Thomas Wyatt writes them in episode 8 of series 2.

Further Reading:

  • The standard edition of Wyatt's poetry is Collected poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, edited by Kenneth Muir (1949; rev. ed. 1969). It replaced the two-volume set edited by A. K. Foxwell in 1913 and reprinted in 1964.

  • The standard biography is Muir's The Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1963).

Critical studies include :

  • A. K. Foxwell, A Study of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poems (1911; repr. 1964);
  • Edmund K. Chambers, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Some Collected Studies (1933);
  • Catherine M. Ing, Elizabethan Lyrics: A Study in the Development of English Metres and Their Relation to Poetic Effect (1951);
  • Raymond Southall, The Courtly Maker: An Essay in the Poetry of Wyatt and His Contemporaries (1964);
  • Patricia Thomson, Sir Thomas Wyatt and His Background (1965).