2012年2月6日 星期一

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503[1] – 11 October 1542[1]) was a 16th-century English lyrical poet credited with introducing the sonnet into English.[2] He was born at Allington Castle, near Maidstone in Kent – though his family was originally from Yorkshire. His mother was Anne Skinner and his father, Henry Wyatt, had been one of Henry VII's Privy Councillors, and remained a trusted adviser when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509. In his turn, Thomas Wyatt followed his father to court after his education at St John's College, Cambridge. None of Wyatt's poems were published during his lifetime—the first book to feature his verse was printed a full fifteen years after his death. [3]



[edit] Education and diplomatic career

Wyatt was over six feet tall, reportedly both handsome and physically strong. Wyatt was not only a poet, but also an ambassador in the service of Henry VIII. He first entered Henry's service in 1515 as 'Sewer Extraordinary', and the same year he began studying at St John's College of the University of Cambridge.[4] He married Elizabeth Brooke (1503–1550), the sister of George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham, in 1522, and a year later she gave birth to a son, Thomas Wyatt, the younger, who led Wyatt's rebellion many years after his father's death. In 1524 Henry VIII assigned Wyatt to be an Ambassador at home and abroad, and some time soon after he separated from his wife on the grounds of adultery.

He accompanied Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford to Rome to help petition Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage of Henry VIII to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, an embassy whose goal was to make Henry free to marry Anne Boleyn. According to some, Wyatt was captured by the armies of Emperor Charles V when they captured Rome and imprisoned the Pope in 1527 but managed to escape and then made it back to England. In 1535 Wyatt was knighted.

[edit] Wyatt's poetry and influence

Wyatt's professed object was to experiment with the English tongue, to civilise it, to raise its powers to those of its neighbours.[5] Although a significant amount of his literary output consists of translations of sonnets by the Italian poet Petrarch, he wrote sonnets of his own. Wyatt's sonnets first appeared in Tottle's Miscellany, now on exhibit in the British Library in London.

In addition to imitations of works by the classical writers Seneca and Horace, he experimented in stanza forms including the rondeau, epigrams, terza rima, ottava rima songs, satires and also with monorime, triplets with refrains, quatrains with different length of line and rhyme schemes, quatrains with codas, and the French forms of douzaine and treizaine [6] in addition to introducing contemporaries to his poulter's measure form (Alexandrine couplets of twelve syllable iambic lines alternating with a fourteener, fourteen syllable line).[7] and is acknowledged a master in the iambic tetrameter.[8]

While Wyatt's poetry reflects classical and Italian models, he also admired the work of Chaucer and his vocabulary reflects Chaucer’s (for example, his use of Chaucer’s word newfangleness, meaning fickle, in They flee from me that sometime did me seek). His best-known poems are those that deal with the trials of romantic love. Others of his poems were scathing, satirical indictments of the hypocrisies and flat-out pandering required of courtiers ambitious to advance at the Tudor court.

[edit] Attribution

The Egerton Manuscript,[9] originally an album containing Wyatt's personal selection of his poems and translations, preserves 123 texts, partly in the poet's hand. Tottel's Miscellany (1557),[10] the Elizabethan anthology which created Wyatt's posthumous reputation, ascribes 96 poems to him, (33 not extant in the Egerton Manuscript). These 156 poems can be ascribed to Wyatt with certainty, on the basis of objective evidence. Another 129 poems have been ascribed to Wyatt purely on the basis of subjective editorial judgment. They derive mostly from two Tudor manuscript anthologies, the Devonshire[11] and Blage manuscripts.[12] R A Rebholz in his preface to Sir Thomas Wyatt, The Complete Poems, comments, 'the problem of determining which poems Wyatt wrote is as yet unsolved'.[13] However, as Richard Harrier's The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poetry (1975) shows, the problem of determining which poems aren't Wyatt's is much simpler. Harrier examines the documentary evidence of the manuscripts (handwritings, organization, etc.) and establishes that there is insufficient textual warrant for assigning any of these poems to Wyatt. The only basis for ascribing these poems to Wyatt resides in editorial evaluation of their style and poetic merits. Compared with the indubitable standard presented in Wyatt's 156 unquestionably ascribable poems, fewer than 30 of these 129 poems survive scrutiny. Most can be dismissed at once. The best edition of Wyatt thus far is Joost Daalder's (1975). It presents 199 poems, including 25 misascriptions (mostly segregated as "Unascribed") and is missing a dozen poems likely to be Wyatt's. A new edition of this major poet, the inventor of lyric poetry in Modern English, is urgently needed.

[edit] Assessment

Critical opinions of his work have varied widely.[14] Thomas Warton, the eighteenth century critic, considered Wyatt 'confessedly an inferior' to his contemporary Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and that Wyatt's 'genius was of the moral and didactic species and be deemed the first polished English satirist'.[15] The 20th century saw an awakening in his popularity and a surge in critical attention. C. S. Lewis called him ‘the father of the Drab Age’ (i.e. the unornate), from what Lewis calls the 'golden' age of the 16th century,[16] while others see his love poetry, with its complex use of literary conceits, as anticipating that of the metaphysical poets in the next century. More recently, the critic Patricia Thomson, describes Wyatt as "the Father of English Poetry" [17]

[edit] Rumored affair with Anne Boleyn

Many legends and conjectures have grown up around the notion that the young, unhappily married Wyatt fell in love with the young Anne Boleyn in the early-to-mid 1520s. The exact nature of their relationship remains uncertain today. Their acquaintance is certain. However, whether or not the two shared a romantic relationship is unknown to this day. Nineteenth-century critic Rev. George Gilfillan implies that Wyatt and Boleyn were romantically connected. To quote a modern historian "that they did look into each others eyes, and felt that to each other they were all too lovely.."[18] is a quite possible scenario. In his poetry, Thomas calls his mistress Anna, and often embeds pieces of information that correspond with her life into his poetry.

"And now I follow the coals that be quent, From Dover to Calais against my mind..." These lines could refer to Anne's trip to France in 1532 right before her marriage to Henry VIII. This could imply that Thomas followed her to France to try and persuade her otherwise or merely to be with her. Later in his life, Thomas writes, while referring to a woman, "Graven in diamonds with letters plain, There is written her fair neck round about, Noli me tangere, Caesar's, I am;"

This shows Wyatt's obvious attraction to a royal lady. According to his grandson George Wyatt, who wrote a biography of Anne Boleyn many years after her death, the moment Thomas Wyatt had seen "this new beauty" on her return from France in winter 1522 he had fallen in love with her. When she attracted King Henry VIII's attentions sometime around 1525, Wyatt was the last of Anne's other suitors to be ousted by the king. According to Wyatt's grandson, after an argument over her during a game of bowls with the King, Wyatt was sent on, or himself requested, a diplomatic mission to Italy.

[edit] Imprisonment on charges of adultery

In May 1536 Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower of London for allegedly committing adultery with Anne Boleyn. He was released from the Tower later that year, thanks to his friendship or his father's friendship with Thomas Cromwell, and he returned to his duties. During his stay in the Tower he may have witnessed not only the execution of Anne Boleyn (May 19, 1536) from his cell window but also the prior executions of the five men with whom she was accused of adultery. Wyatt is known to have written a poem inspired by the experience[19], which, though it stays clear of declaring the executions groundless, expresses grief and shock.

In the 1530s, he wrote poetry in the Devonshire MS declaring his love for a woman; employing the basic acrostic formula, the first letter of each line spells out SHELTUN. A reply is written underneath it, signed by Mary Shelton, rejecting him. Mary, Anne Boleyn's first cousin, had been the mistress of Henry VIII between February and August 1535.[20]

In 1540 he was again in favor, as evident by the fact that he was granted the site and many of the manorial estates of the dissolved Boxley Abbey. However, in 1541 he was charged again with treason and the charges were again lifted—though only thanks to the intervention of Henry's fifth wife, then-Queen Catherine Howard, and upon the condition of reconciling with his adulterous wife. He was granted a full pardon and restored once again to his duties as ambassador. After the execution of Catherine Howard, there were rumours that Wyatt's wife, Elizabeth, was a possibility for wife number six, despite the fact that she was still married to Wyatt.[21] He became ill not long after, and died on 11 October 1542 around the age of 39, while staying with his friend Sir John Horsey at Clifton Maybank House in Dorset. He is buried in nearby Sherborne Abbey.[22]

Prefaces to The experience of literature (Trilling...

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

They flee from me that Sometime did me Seek

1They flee from me that sometime did me seek
2With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
3I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
4That now are wild and do not remember
5That sometime they put themself in danger
6To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
7Busily seeking with a continual change.

8Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
9Twenty times better; but once in special,
10In thin array after a pleasant guise,
11When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
12And she me caught in her arms long and small;
13Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
14And softly said, "dear heart, how like you this?"

15It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
16But all is turned thorough my gentleness
17Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
18And I have leave to go of her goodness,
19And she also, to use newfangleness.
20But since that I so kindly am served
21I would fain know what she hath deserved.


1] "The louer sheweth how he is forsaken of such as he sometime enioyed" (Tottel).

2] stalking: walking carefully in a stealthy way.

5] in danger: under obligation to me, in my debt (or possibly even: in my power).

9] Twenty times better: better on twenty occasions; or more than twenty times?
in special: especially.

10] pleasant guise: pleasing style, or possibly behaviour or livery (dress).

12] small: slender.

14] heart: a play on "hart."

15] broad waking: wide awake.

16] thorough: through.

18] leave to go of her goodness: her gracious permission to go (ironically).

19] newfangleness: literally: fondness for novelty, following the fashion; fickleness.

20] kindly: in a kind way (ironically), and according to nature (as a wild animal would behave).

Commentary by Ian Lancashire

Complaints by a male abandoned by his mistress are seldom as thoughtful as Sir Thomas Wyatt's "They flee from me." In the Henrician Renaissance, women lacked most of the legal, social, and sexual rights we have taken increasingly for granted since the 1920s. Married Henry VIII enjoyed his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, by whom he had a male child, and seduced many other women, including the Boleyn sisters, before he eventually divorced Katherine of Aragon to marry Anne. His court followed the king's example with women. Courtiers, like Henry, wrote love lyrics in pursuing a woman's sexual favours, but once seduced, unmarried women lost their power. Few men would complain, in lyrics, about being rejected by someone they had successfully bedded because they usually were fully prepared to move on to new sexual partners and positions.

Wyatt's personal lyric, uttered reflectively to what seems an intimate friend, reverses the usual male-female roles in sexual liaisons. Promiscuous at first, in the opening stanza, giving "bread" to the mouths of many who sought him out in his chamber, Wyatt himself is "caught" (12) in the second stanza by one of the "wild" ones he used to tame there. Before, those that sought him out came with "naked foot" (2), vulnerable and complaisant. They ate at his hands. Then came one who unrobed herself and brought a kiss down to his mouth as he "lay broad waking" (15). The man to whom women had once lowered themselves to take their nourishment at his hand now appears prostrate before a woman who lets her thin gown drop from her shoulders, naked again, as before, but this time standing over him and bending herself down to him. Her power over him comes out in her questioning, "dear heart, how like you this?" This time, she is the pleasure-giver.

The poem centres on this moment, a male sexual fantasy. It is one thing for a man to take what he wants from diminished creatures, but quite another to have the seduced orchestrate her own sexual service. To be desired for the "bread" he has to offer pales besides being treated as the bread itself. Even as a male seducer becomes a seduced, the female who put herself "in danger" before takes his former power. This exchange in place occasions the change that Wyatt introduces in the first line. The seeker now leaves him for other interests, for "newfangleness" (19).

In the third stanza Wyatt describes this reversal, not as betrayal, but as courtesy. It is a "strange fashion of forsaking" (17) -- foreign and unEnglish -- because she takes her cue from his own "gentleness." Before, when she among many others came to his chamber and put themselves "in danger," whether of rejection, rape, or love longing, he gave them "bread" by hand. His promiscuous gentleness tamed them, in turn, to be "gentle." Later, he submitted to his mistress's own advances when, "sweetly," she kissed him; and this time he, not she, acquiesced. When she gives him "leave to go of her goodness," permission for them both to do what he had done many times himself, that is, to practice "newfangleness" and play the field (19), she mirrors his gentle nature. Yet this leads Wyatt to pose the poem's closing ethical problem: "since that I so kindly am served / I would fain know what she hath deserved." Does her abandonment of him merit a like gentleness and sophistication because he is fundamentally responsible for laying down the rules of their relationship? or does Wyatt deserve the sympathy owing to a victim, and his mistress the contempt of a woman loose in more than her gown? Love affairs are rife with insoluable difficulties. Ending as it does, should we say that Wyatt's poem leaves us without an answer?

If poetry were just information, we should be dissatisfied, but Wyatt carefully deploys language and metaphor to imply what cannot be stated. His choice term "kindly" (20) means, not only "considerately" (possibly with an ironic undertone), but "according to nature or species." The first stanza describes the women that sought his favours simply as "they" and "them," without hinting that they are either feminine or human. Other words applied to them, such as "stalking," "tame," "wild," "take bread at my hand," and "range," belong to a world of creatures rather than people. In Early Modern English, Wyatt appears to be describing birds, either pigeons or birds of prey. The Henrician court hunted routinely with falcons and hawks, which were controlled by means of jesses, slips of leather around their legs, and whose feet were called "stalks" (OED "stalk," sb. 1, 3). The verb "seek," as well, has hunting associations. Birds "with naked foot" were thought tame, unlikely to fly away except on command, but something happened to make them wild and return to their unpredictability.

Not only do the birds of the first stanza become the woman of the second, but she becomes the hunter, catching (12) Wyatt the "dear heart" (which may be a play of words on the noblest game, the "hart"). The male hunting man is thus transformed into a submissively gentle prey. Both man and woman, in turn, become less than human. In their natural world, questions of ethics, responsibility, and deserving do not apply. That is what Wyatt wants to know and cannot bring himself to admit. Changeability is a characteristic of the material world under the moon, not of the morally charged spirit. He has been treated naturally. She is not guilty by reason of diminished responsibility.

In his poetic revision of Wyatt's poem (1991), Gawin Ewart turns Wyatt's birds into "chicks" and calls his forsaking mistress a "bitch." This transformation reflects late 20th-century sexual mores and uses a vocabulary of human character with which Wyatt would not have been familiar. A 16th-century lover, bewildered in several senses, has given away to our new man, "emotionally underpriviliged" in a woman's world.

Online text copyright © 2011, Ian Lancashire (the Department of English) and the University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: British Library Egerton MS. 2711, fol. 26v; cf. Richard Harrier, Canon (1975): 131-32.
First publication date: 1557
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger, Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RP 1963: I.7 (F. D. Hoeniger); RPO 1994 (IL).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/1*1:2002/9/9*1:2009/5/18

Composition date: 1525 - 1532
Form: Rhyme royal