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POEMS            (EPIGRAMS)


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Thomas Wyatt


Rondeaus  Misc poems I Misc poems II Misc poems III Sonnets1-20 Sonnets 21-31 Satires

Sonnets 1 - 50

Sonnets 51 - 100

Sonnets 101 - 154

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The text of this edition is taken from The Poems of Sir Thomas Wiat edited by A.K. Foxwell, London 1913. The modern spelling version and the notes are provided by the Webmaster of this site. The notes are not intended to be exhaustive, but to provide the minimum assistance to students for whom the poems are new.




Who hath herd of such crueltye before ?
That when my plaint remembred her my woo
That caused it ; she, cruell more and more,
Wisshed eche stitche, as she did sit and soo,
Had prykt myn hert for to encrese my sore.
And as I thinck, she thought it had ben so :
For as she thought : "This is his hert in dede" :
She pricked herd, and made herself to blede.



Who hath heard of such cruelty before?
That when my plaint remembered her my woe
That caused it, she, cruel more and more,
Wished each stitch, as she did sit and sew,
Had pricked mine heart for to increase my sore.
And as I think, she thought it had been so:
For as she thought "This is his heart indeed"
She pricked hard, and made herself to bleed.





remembered her = reminded her of.


She sat and sowde that hath done me the wrong :
Wherof I plain, and have done many a daye :
And whilst she herd my plaint in pitious song,
Wisshed my hert the samplar as it lay.
The blind maister whome I have served so long :
Grudging to here that he did here her saye ;
Made her own wepon do her fynger blede,
To fele if pricking were so good in dede.
  She sat and sewed that hath done me the wrong
Whereof I plain, and have done many a day.
And whilst she heard my plaint in piteous song,
Wished my heart the sampler as it lay.
The blind master whom I have served so long,   Grudging to hear that he did hear her say,
Made her own weapon do her finger bleed,
To feel if pricking were so good indeed.



that hath = (she) who has.

= complain.

Wished = she wished that my heart were.

The blind master = Cupid.

that he did hear = that which he heard.

indeed = in actuality.






Alas madame for stelyng of a kysse,
Have I somuch your mynd then offended ?
Have I then done so grevously amysse,
That by no meanes it may be amended ?
Then revenge you : and the next way is this :
An othr kysse shall have my lyfe endid.
For to my mowth the first my hert did suck,
The next shall clene oute of my brest it pluck.



Alas madame for stealing of a kiss,
Have I so much your mind then offended?
Have I then done so grievously amiss,
That by no means it may be amended?
Then revenge you: and the next way is this:
An other kiss shall have my life ended.
For to my mouth the first my heart did suck,
The next shall clean out of my breast it pluck.




the next way = the most immediate way (to revenge yoursaelf).



The wandering gadlyng in the sommer tyde,
That fyndes the Adder with his recheles fote,
Startes not dismayd so soudenly a side
As Jalous dispite did, tho there war no bote,
When that he saw me sitting by her side,   
  That of my helth is very croppe and rote.
It pleased me then to have so fair a grace,
To styng that hert, that would have my place.
  The wandering gadling in the summer tide,
That finds the Adder with his reckless foot,
Starts not dismayed so suddenly aside
As jealous despite did, though there were no boot,
When that he saw me sitting by her side,   
  That of my health is very crop and root.
It pleased me then to have so fair a grace,
To sting that heart, that would have my place.



gadling = vagabond, tramp.

= time.

Starts = jumps away.

The blind master = Cupid.

jealous despite = jealous enmity.

very crop and root = the absolute totality of me. Crop = the top of a plant.


What nedeth these threning wordes and wasted wynde :
All this cannot make me restore my pray :
To robbe your good I wis is not my mynde :
Nor causeles your fair hand did I display.
Let love be judge, or els whome next we meit ;   
That may boeth here what you and I can say :
She toke from me an herte ; and I a glove from her ;
Let us se nowe, if thon) be wourth thothr.
  What needeth these threning words and wasted wind,
All this cannot make me restore my prey.
To rob your good I wis is not my mind,
Nor causeless your fair hand did I display.
Let love be judge, or else whom next we meet,   
That may both hear what you and I can say.
She took from me an heart; and I a glove from her;
Let us see now, if th'one be worth th'other.



threning = lamenting.

= sighs.

prey = the glove which he took from her hand.

I wis = I know, I assert.

mind = intention, purpose.

display = reveal, expose (by removing your glove).


Ryght true it is : and said full yore agoo :
"Take hede of him that by thy back the claweth " ;
For none is wourse than is a friendly ffoo :
Though they seme good : all thing that thee deliteth :
Yet know it well, that in thy bosom crepeth ;  
For many a man such fier oft knydeleth,
That with the blase his berd syngeth.
  Right true it is, and said full yore ago:
"Take heed of him that by thy back thee claweth " ;
For none is worse than is a friendly foe.
Though they seem good, all thing that thee delighteth,
Yet know it well, that in thy bosom creepeth:  
For many a man such fire oft kindleth,
That with the blaze his beard singeth.



full yore ago = long ago.

all thing that thee delighteth
= and delight you in every way.

that in thy bosom creepeth = what type of friend that person is (who thus seeks to enter your bosom).

singeth = is singed.


What wourde is that that chaungeth not,
Though it be tourned and made in twain ?
It is myn aunswer, God it wot,
And eke the causer of my payn.
A love rewardeth with disdain :
Yet is it loved : what would ye more :
It is my helth eke and my sore.
  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 old Savoy Palace in the time of Henry VIII



The solution to the riddle is said to be ANNA, a name which remains unchanged when turned, and is almost unchanged when cut in two.

turned = turned back to front.

made in twain
= cut in two.

answer = solution (to the riddle, and to the easing of my pain).

God it wot = God knows that it is so.

eke = also.

It ... it = the name Anna, (and the person).

What would ye more = what more would you wish me to do; what other clues do you require.

sore = pain, sorrow.


A ladye gave me a gyfte she had not :
And I receyvid her guifte I toke not :
She gave it me willinglye and yet she wold not :
And I receyvid it albeit I coulde not.
If she geve it me I force not :
And if she take it agayne she cares not :
Conster what this is : and tell not :
For I am fast sworne I maye not.
  A lady gave me a gift she had not,
And I received her gift I took not.
She gave it me willingly and yet she would not,
And I received it albeit I could not.
If she gave it me I forced not,
And if she take it again she cares not.
Conster what this is, and tell not,
For I am fast sworn I may not.



The riddle is said to be similar to a poem by George Gascoigne, to which the answer is 'a kiss'. Other suggestions are that it is 'a promise', 'her virginity', 'her vagina'. None of the answers seems to be entirely appropriate.

had not = did not possess.

took not
= did not take by force.

yet she would not = she preferred not to; she was ashamed to.

I force not = I did not use force; I do not make an issue of it.

she cares not = she is not concerned (to retrieve it); she does not care for me.

Conster = understand.


Some tyme I fled the fyre that me brent,
By see by land, by water and by wynd ;
And now I follow the coles that be quent,
From Dovor to Calais against my mynde.
Lo how desire is boeth sprong and spent;
And he may se that whilome was so blynd :
And all his labor now he laugh to scorne
Mashed in the breers that erst was all to-torne.
  Some time I fled the fire that me burnt,
By sea by land, by water and by wind;
And now I follow the coals that be quenched,
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 laughs to scorn,
Meshed in the briars that erst was all to-torn.




Some time = for a time.

made in twain
= cut in two.

the coals that be quenched = the fire of passion whoich has now died down.

sprung and spent = grown up, like a plant, but now withered.

he may see = I myself am now able to see clearly. But perhaps the reference is also to Cupid.

his labour = his (past) agonies.

Meshed = enmeshed.

briars = the tangles of love. erst = formerly.

all to-torn = torn to shreds.

In comparison with his former condition of passionate longing, he now is only tangled (politically?) in the briars of his previous contacts with the woman. The poem possibly refers to Henry VIII's trip to France with Anne Boleyn.



He is not ded that somtyme hath a fall :
The sonne retornth that was under the clowde :
And when fortune hath spitt oute all her gall,
I trust good luck to me shalbe allowede.
For I have sene a shipp into haven fall,
After the storme hath broke boeth mast and shrowde :
And eke the willowe that stowpith with the wynde,
Doeth ryse again, and greater wode doeth bynd.
  He is not dead that sometime hath a fall;
The sun returneth that was under the cloud;
And when fortune hath spit out all her gall,
I trust good luck to me shall be allowed.
For I have seen a ship into haven fall
After the storm hath broke both mast and shroud.
And eke the willow that stoopeth with the wind,
Doth rise again, and greater wood doth bind.




He = That man, that person.

shroud = sails.

eke = also.

greater wood doth bind
= is used to bind together wood that is stronger than it is itself.


The furyous gonne, in his raging yre,
When that the bowle is ramed in to sore
And that the flame cannot part from the fire,
Cracketh in sonder : and in the ayer doth rore
The shevered peces : right so doeth my desire,
Whose flame encreseth from more to more.
Wych to let owt I dare not loke nor speke ;
So now hard force my hert doeth all to breke.
  The furious gun, in his raging ire,
When that the ball is rammed in too sore,
And that the flame cannot part from the fire,
Cracketh in sunder - and in the air doth roar
The shivered pieces. Right so doth my desire,
Whose flame increaseth from more to more.
Which, to let out, I dare not look nor speak,
So now hard force my heart doth all to break.



too sore = over strenuously.

the flame cannot part from the fire = the explosive fire cannot separate itself from its source (the ignited powder).

in sunder = apart.

Right so
= even so.

So now = to such an extent now; in like manner now.

doth all = causes entirely.

The hard force which causes his heart to break is presumably his unbridled passion.






Thenmy of liff, decayer of all kynde,
That with his cold withers away the grene :
This othr nyght me in my bed did fynde,
And offered me to rid my fiever clene.
And I did graunt : so did dispaire me blynde.
He drew his bowe with arrowe sharp and kene,
And strake the place where love had hit befor,
And drave the first dart deper more and more.



The enemy of life, decayer of all kind,
That with his cold withers away the green,
This other night me in my bed did find,
And offered me to rid my fever clean.
And I did grant: so did despair me blind.
He drew his bow with arrow sharp and keen,
And struck the place where love had hit before,
And drove the first dart deeper more and more.




The enemy of life = death.

all kind = all species, all types of life.

This other = the other, i.e. recently.

to rid = to remove, eliminate.

= entirely and absolutely.

And I did grant = and I allowed him to.

the first dart = the dart (arrow) which Cupid had driven previously into his heart.

Death therefore not only fails to cure the malady of love, but even makes it worse.






Nature that gave the bee so seet a grace
To fynd hony of so wonderous fasshion :
Hath taught the spider oute of the same place
To fetch poyson, by straynge alteration ;
Tho this be straynge, it is a straynger case,
With oon kysse, by secret operation,
Boeth these at ons, in those your lippes to fynde ;
In chaunge whereof, I leve my hert behinde.



Nature that gave the bee so feat a grace
To find honey of so wondrous fashion,
Hath taught the spider out of the same place
To fetch poison, by strange alteration.
Though this be strange, it is a stranger case,
With one kiss, by secret operation,
Both these at once, in those your lips to find:
In change whereof, I leave my heart behind.




feat = apt, clever.

out of the same place = i.e. from the flower.

Both these = both honey and poison.

in change whereof = in exchange for which.






Desire alas, my master and my foo
So sore alterd thi selff how mayst thou se ?
Some tyme I sought that dryvis me to and fro ;
Some tyme thou ledst that ledyth the and me.
What reson is to rewle thy subiectes so ?
By forcyd law and mutabilite ?
For where by the I dowtyd to have blame,
Evyn now by hate agayne I dowt the same.



Desire alas, my master and my foe
So sore altered, thy self how mayst thou see?
Some time I sought that drives me to and fro;
Some time thou led'st that leadeth thee and me.
What reason is to rule thy subjects so
By forced law and mutability?
For where by thee I doubted to have blame,
Even now by hate again I doubt the same.




So sore altered = so grievously changed (from love to hate).

thy self how mayst thou see = how may you even recognise yourself?

Some time = in past times.

that drives me = her who drives (chases) me (now).

thou led'st that = you (desire) used to lead her (who now leads us both).

What reason is
= what reason do you have that you should etc. ?

by thee I doubted = because of you, desire, I feared.

by hate again I doubt the same = as a result of the hatred I now feel towards her, I again fear to be blamed .






Venemus thornes that ar so sharp and kene,
Sometyme ber flowers fayre and fresh of hue :
Poyson offtyme is put in medecene,
And causith helth in man for to renue ;
Ffire that purgith allthing that is unclene,
May hele and hurt : and if thes bene true,
I trust somtyme my harme may be my helth :
Syns evry wo is joynid with some welth.



Venemous thorns that are so sharp and keen,
Sometime bear flowers fair and fresh of hue.
Poison ofttime is put in medecine,
And causeth health in man for to renew.
Fire that purgeth all thing that is unclean,
May heal and hurt: and if these be true,
I trust sometime my harm may be my health,
Since every woe is joined with some wealth.




Sometime = at times.

all thing that is = all things that are.

my harm = the pain of loving you.






In dowtfull brest, whilst moderly pitie,
With furyous famyn stondyth at debate
Sayth thebrew moder : "O child unhappye
"Retorne thi blowd where thou hadst milk of late ;
"Yeld me those lyms that I made unto thee,
"And entre there where thou wert generat ;
"For of on body agaynst all nature,
"To a nothr must I make sepulture.



In doubtful breast, whilst motherly pity
With furious famine standeth at debate,
Saith th'Hebrew mother : "O child unhappy,
"Return thy blood where thou hadst milk of late;
"Yield me those limbs that I made unto thee,
"And enter there where thou wert generate;
"For of one body, against all nature,
"To another must I make sepulture.




The story derives from Josephus. A Hebrew mother kills her child, because she sees no hope for it in the siege of Jerusalem. By slaying and eating her child she hoped to shame those who had promoted the cause of war. The epigram is a translation of an anonymous Italian poem. (See Sir Thomas Wyatt, edited by R. H. Rebholz, Penguin Classics, 1978, p. 368.)

doubtful = fearful.

furious famine = the famine caused by the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans.

standeth at debate = debates.

enter there etc. = enter my body, i.e., through being eaten by me.

make sepulture = be a tomb.






Off Cartage he, that worthie warier
Could overcome, but cowld not use his chaunce :
And I, like wise off all my long endever,
The sherpe conquest, tho fortune did avaunce,
Could not it use : the hold that is gyvin over
I unpossest : so hangith in balaunce
Off warr my pees, reward of all my payne ;
At Mountzon thus I restles rest in Spayne.



Of Carthage he, that worthy warrior
Could overcome, but could not use his chance.
And I, likewise, of all my long endeavour,
The sharp conquest though fortune did advance,
Could not it use. The hold that is given over
Is unpossess't. So hangeth in balance
Of war my peace, reward of all my pain;
At Mountzon thus I restless rest in Spain.




Wyatt was in Mountzon, Spain, in 1537, as an ambassador from England. The poem may be interpreted as a comment on his diplomatic failures, or as a love poem in which he laments his lack of success with his new mistress.

Of Carthage he = Hannibal, who in 218-216 BC defeated the Romans on various occasions, yet failed to take advantage of his victories and capture Rome.

the sharp conquest = the glorious and striking victory.

did advance = helped it, set it on its way.

Could not it use - the subject is 'I' of line 3.

The hold that is given over / Is unpossess't - of doubtful meaning. I have emended the 'I' of the manuscripts to 'is'. Hence 'A conquest that is relinquished is no longer in the possession of the conqueror'.






I lede a liff unpleasant, nothing glad :
Crye and complaynt offerre voydes Joyfulnesse :
So chaungethe unrest that nought shall fade :
Payne and dyspyse hathe altered plesantnes ;
Ago, long synnys that she hathe truly made
Disdayne for trowght, sett lyght yn stedfastnes,
I have cause goode to syng this song :
Playne or reioyse, who felythe wele or wrong.



I lead a life unpleasant, nothing glad.
Cry and complaint afar voids joyfulness,
So changeth unrest that nought shall fade,
Pain and despise hath altered pleasantness.
Ago long since, that she hath truly made
Disdain for truth, set light in steadfastnes,
I have cause good to sing this song -
Plain or rejoice, who feeleth weal or wrong.




nothing glad = having nothing to make me happy.

cry and complaint = tears and laments.

afar voids = nullifies and sewnds far off.

So changeth unrest - Rebholz emends to 'Sore chargeth me unrest', i.e. 'unrest, which never diminishes (fades), causes me grievous pain.

despise = despite, contempt.

ago long since = since long ago.

made / Disdain for truth = made contempt and scorn take the place of trust and honour.

set light in steadfastness = made light of constancy.

Plain or rejoice etc = Let he who feels rightfully treated rejoice, and he who is maltreated complain.






From thes hye hilles as when a spryng doth fall.
It tryllyth downe with still and suttyll corse :
Off this and that it gaders ay, and shall,
Iyll it have just off flowd the streme, and forse,
Then at the fote it ragith over all;
So faryth love when he hath tan a sorse ;
His rayne is rage, resistans valyth none ;
The first estew is remedy alone.



From these high hills as when a spring doth fall,
It trilleth down with still and subtle course,
Of this and that it gathers ay, and shall,
Till it have just off flowed the stream and force,
Then at the foot it rageth over all.
So fareth love when he hath ta'en a source;
His rein is rage, resistance vaileth none.
The first eschew is remedy alone.






trilleth = runs with a singing voice.

Of this and that it gathers ay = It gathers to itself continually waters from all sides.

Till it have just etc. - uncertain meaning.

at the foot = (?) at the foot of the waterfall.

when he hath ta'en a source = when it has found a suitable beginning, or subject.

His rein is rage = reining him in enrages him.

vaileth = availeth.

The first eschew = avoidance at the outset.






Tagus, fare well, that westward with thy stremis,
Turns up the grayns of gold already tryd :
With spurr and sayle for I go seke the Temis,
Gaynward the sonne that showth her welthi pryd :
And to the town which Brutus sowght by dremis.
Like bendyd mone doth lend her lusty syd :
My Kyng my Contry alone for whome I lyve :
Of myghty love the winges for this me gyve.



Tagus, farewell, that westward, with thy streams,
Turns up the grains of gold already tried,
With spur and sail for I go seek the Thames,
Gainward the sun that show'th her wealthy pride,
And to the town which Brutus sought by dreams,
Like bended moon doth lend her lusty side.
My King my Country, alone for whom I live,
Of mighty love the wings for this me give.




View of the Tower of London from an old manuscript.





Tagus = a river in Spain. The sandy grains of its bottom often looked like gold.

tried = tested, panned (for gold).

With spur and sail = on horse and ship.

for - perhaps this refers back to line 1. Thus ' Farewell, for I now depart to seek the Thames'.

Gainward = against, i.e. into the East.

Brutus = the assasin of Julius Caesar. According to legend he dreamed of London, sailed to Brittania, and eventually founded the city on the Thames.

Like bended moon etc. = which like a crescent moon is curved (around the sweep of the Thames). There is no foundation for the Brutus legend.

Of mighty love - the word order is inverted. 'Give me the mighty wings of love which will bring me home to London.'






Off purpos Love chase first for to be blynd ;
For he with syght of that that I behold,
Vanquisht had bene against all godly kynd ;
His bow, your hand, and trusse shold have unfold :
And he with me to serve had bene assind.
But, for he blind and rekelesse wold him hold,
And still by chaunse his dedly strokes bestow,
With such as see I serve and suffer wow.



Of purpose Love chose first for to be blind,
For he, with sight of that that I behold,
Vanquished had been against all godly kind.
His bow, your hand and truss should have unfold,
And he with me to serve had been assigned.
But, for he blind and reckless would him hold,
And still by chance his deadly strokes bestow,
With such as see I serve and suffer woe.




Boy as archer, by Nicolaes Maes.





Of purpose = on purpose, deliberately.

Love = Cupid, the blind child god, son of Venus.

Vanquished had been = would have been conquered by her charms.

against all godly kind = contrary to the nature of godliness.

truss = close fitting garment.

should have unfold = would have made slack. 'His bow' is the object of the sentence. It would have been rendered useless by the beauty of her hand and dress.

would him hold = desires to remain.

by chamce = at random.

With such as see = alongside those who have sight.






Vulcane begat me : Mynerva me taught
Nature, my mother : craft norischt me yere by yere
Thre bodyes ar my fode : my strength is in naught :
Angre, wrath, wast, and noyse are my children dere
Gesse frend what I ame and how I ame wrought :
Monstere of see or of lande or of else where ?
Know me and use me and I may thee defend
And if I be thine enmye, I may thy life ende.



Vulcan begat me. Minerva me taught.
Nature, my mother. Craft nourished me year by                                                                       year.
Three bodies are my food. My strength is in naught.
Anger, wrath, waste and noise are my children dear.
Guess friend what I am and how I am wrought.
Monster of sea or of land or of elsewhere ?
Know me and use me and I may thee defend,
And if I be thine enemy, I may thy life end.




View of the Tower of London from an old manuscript.





A riddle, based on a Latin original. The object described is a gun.

Vulcan - Equivalent to the Greek god Hephaestus, the lame blacksmith who was married to Aphrodite (Venus).

Minerva = Athena. She was the goddess of intelligence.

Three bodies = the three constituents of gunpowder, saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal.

in naught = the emptiness of the barrel of the cannon.

wrought = made, constructed.







All yn thi sight my lif doth hole depende ;
Thou hidist thyself and I must dye therfore ;
But sins thou maiste so easely save thy frende,
Why dost thou styk to salv that thou madist sore ?
Whye doo I dye sins thou maist me deffende ?
For if I dye, then maist thou lyve no more :
Sins ton bye tothr doth lyve and fede thy herte,
I with thye sight, thou also with my smerte.



All in thy sight my life doth whole depend.
Thou hidest thyself and I must die therefore,
But since thou may'st so easily save thy friend,
Why dost thou stick to salve that thou madest sore?
Why do I die since thou may'st me defend?
For if I die, then may'st thou live no more,
Since th'one by th'other doth live and feed thy heart,
I with thy sight, thou also with my smart.




whole = wholly.

stick = refrain from.

that thou = that which you. i.e. my heart.

I with thy sight = I live by seeing you.

you also = you also stay alive.

smart = pain, injury. i.e. she takes delight in looking on his pain.







The fructe of all the servise that I serve
Dispaire doth repe, such haples hap have I ;
But tho he have no powre to make me swarve,
Yet by the fire for colde I fele I dye :
In paradis for hunger still I sterve :
And in the flowde for thurste to deth I drye ;
So Tantalus ane I and yn worse payne,
Amyds my helpe, and helples doth remayne.



The fruit of all the service that I serve
Despair doth reap, such hapless hap have I.
But though he have no power to make me swerve,
Yet by the fire for cold I feel I die.
In paradise for hunger still I starve,
And in the flood for thirst to death I dry;
So Tantalus am I and in worse pain,
Amidst my help, and helpless doth remain.




Henry VIII   by Holbein



the service that I serve = my devotion to you.

Despair doth reap = despair harvests (the fruit, or profit, of my love for you). Or, 'my service to you reaps only despair as its harvest.

he have no power to make me swerve = he (despair) has no power to make me change my course of action.

for cold = as a result of cold.

for hunger still = continually with hunger.

in the flood = deep in water (metaphoric, for being deeply in love).

to death I dry = I am dried up so much that I must die.

So Tantalus = like Tantalus (who was condemned in hell to suffer endless hunger and thirst).

Amidst my help = in the midst of that which should aid me.

helpless doth remain = and I continue to be without succour.







Within my brest I never thought it gain
Of gentle mynde the fredom for to lose ;
Nor in my hart sanck never such disdain
To be a forger, faultes for to disclose ;
Nor can I not endure the truth to glose :
To set a glosse upon an earnest pain :
Nor I am not in nomber one of those,
That list to blow retrete to every train.



Within my breast I never thought it gain
Of gentle mind the freedom for to lose,
Nor in my heart sank never such disdain
To be a forger, faults for to disclose.
Nor can I not endure the truth to gloze
To set a gloss upon an earnest pain.
Nor I am not in number one of those
That list to blow retreat to every train.




Henry VIII    by Holbein



thought it gain = considered it to be advantageous.

gentle = noble, well bred.

the freedom for to lose = to lose (my) freedom (for the sake of love).

a forger = one who invents stories.

faults for to disclose = in order to reveal faults in others.

Nor can I not - the double negative implies 'I can'.

to gloze = to explain away, to demystify.

To set a gloss upon = to give a superficial justification for.

an earnest pain = the deep pain (of loving).

that list to blow retreat = who back off (sound a retreat).

to every train = to each and all of life's events and adventures.







For shamefast harm of great and hatefull nede :
In depe despayre, as did a wretch go,
With ready corde, out of his life to spede :
His stumbling foote did finde an hoorde, lo,
Of golde I say : where he preparde this dede ;
And in eschange, he left the corde, tho
He that had hidde the golde, and founde it not,
Of that he founde, he shapte his neck a knot.



For shamefast harm, of great and hatefull need,
In deep despair, as did a wretch go,
With ready cord, out of his life to speed,
His stumbling foot did find an hoard, lo,
Of gold I say, where he prepared this deed.
And in exchange, he left the cord, though
He that had hid the gold, and found it not,
Of that he found, he shaped his neck a knot.







for shamefast harm = as a result of shames which had injured him.

of great and hateful need = (and) because of great neediness, which was repellent to him (hateful).

as did a wretch go = a wretched person once did go.

with ready cord = with a rope prepared, so that he could hang himself.

out of his life to speed = so as to quit this life speedily.

where he prepared this deed = at the very spot where he had intended to slay himself.

of that he found = from the thing that he found, i.e. the rope.

he shaped his neck = he made for his neck (so as to hang himself).








My love ys lyke unto theternall fyre :
And I as those whyche therin do remayn :
Whose grevous payne ys but theyre gret desyre,
To se the syght whyche they may not attayn.
So in helles heate my self I fele to be,
That am restraynd, by gret extremyte,
The syght of her whyche ys so dere to me.
O puissant love and power of gret avayle
  By whome hell may be fellt or dethe assayle.



My love is like unto the eternal fire
And I as those which therein do remain,
Whose grievous pain is but their great desire,
To see the sight which they may not attain.
So in hell's heat myself I feel to be,
That am restrained, by great extremity,
The sight of her which is so dear to me.
O puissant love, and power of great avail,
  By whom hell may be felt, or death assail.







the eternal fire = the everlasting fire of hell.

And I as those = and I am like one of those.

which therein do remain = who remain cooped within it.

but = only.

to see the sight etc. - Just as the condemned soul in hell longs to see the sight of God, but it is always denied him/her, so the lover longs to see the vision of his beloved, but never attains to it.

by great extremity = by extreme circumstances. It is uncertain whether his beloved is behaving extremely (i.e. pitilessly, inconsiderately and harshly) by denying him what he desires (the sight of her), or whether the beloved merely feels himself to be torn apart by the extreme nature of his desires, because he cannot get enough of her. Probably the latter.

restrained ... the sight of her = kept from seeing her

which = who.

puissant = powerful (from the French)

of great avail = of mighty force.

death assail = death might attack and overcome (the lover, as a result of his love).

The final two lines might perhaps be paraphrased as 'O mighty Love, which has the power to cast the lover into hell, or to overcome him and slay him'.







In court to serve decked with freshe aray,
Of sugred meates felyng the swete repast ;
The life in bankets and sundry kindes of play,
Amid the presse of lordly lokes to waste,
Hath with it joynde oft times such bitter taste,
That whoso ioyes such kinde of life to holde,
In prison ioyes fettred with cheines of gold.



In court to serve, deckèd 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 whoso joys such kind of life to hold,
In prison joys, fettered with chains of gold.







The epigram laments the falsity and treacherousness of life in the court (i.e. the royal court, where preferment was to be found and ambition could have full scope).

decked with fresh array = clothed in bright new costume.

Of sugared meats etc. = being aware of the richness and sweetness of the foods.

sundry kinds of play = multifarious amusements.

the press of lordly looks = the oppression of haughty looks from Lords and those who snobbishly aspire to give themselves airs and graces.

hath with it joined = is accompanied by.

oft times = frequently

that whoso joys etc. = so that whoever enjoys maintaining such a life-style.

in prison joys = is really in prison. i.e. thinks that he is enjoying himself, but is really in chains.

fettered = chained up, as one used to be in prison.

chains of gold = i.e. the meretricious attractions of court life.









A face that shuld content me wonders well,
Shuld not be faire but lovelie to behold :
With gladsome cheare all grief for to expell :
With sober lookes so wold I that it should
Speake without wordes, such wordes as non can tell ;
The tresse also shuld be of crysped gold :
With witt : and thus might chaunce I might be tyde
And knyt agayne the knott that should not slide.



A face that should content me wondrous well
Should not be fair but lovely to behold,
With gladsome cheer all grief for to expel.
With sober looks, so would I that it should
Speak without words, such words as none can tell.
The tress also should be of crispèd gold.
With wit. And thus might chance I might be tied
And knit again the knot that should not slide.







Tottel entitles this poem 'A description of such a one as he would love'.

that should = that would.

content me wondrous well = give me the utmost pleasure, please me greatly.

not fair but lovely = not artificially beautified, but nevertheless with natural beauty.

with gladsome cheer = expressing happiness.

all grief for to expel = such that it would drive away all sorrow.

so would I that it should = I would wish that (it, she) would. The face here stands for the person, or personality.

the tress = the hair.

crispèd = curled, crinkly.

With wit = Let her have intelligence also.

And thus might chance I might be tied = and in these circumstances it could be that I might tie myself (to her).

knit again the knot = join myself once again in matrimony, or in love.

that should not slide = that would remain permanent, that would not break asunder. It is perhaps worth noting that Wyatt's marriage was an unhappy one, and he was separated from his wife.







Luckes my fair falcon and your fellowes all,
How well pleasaunt yt were your libertie !
Ye not forsake me that faire might ye befall ;
But they that sometyme lykt my companye,
Like lyse away from ded bodies, thei crall,
Loe what a profe in light adversytie !
But ye my birdes, I swear, by all your belles
Ye be my fryndes, so be but few elles.



Lucks, my fair 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, so be but few else.







Lucks - the name of his falcon.

your fellows all = all the other birds which train with you, and are held captive by me.

it were = would it be for you to have.

that fair might ye befall = in order to have a better (fairer) life.

But they etc. - He contrasts the behaviour of his erstwhile friends with that of his birds kept for sport.

proof = test; experience.

Lo what a proof etc. = What a demonstration this is of the meaness of friends when minor adversity strikes one.

your bells = bells worn by the birds as part of the harness of falconry.








Sighes ar my foode : drynke are my teares
Clynkinge of fetters suche musycke wolde crave :
Stynke and close ayer away my lyf wears :
Innocencie is all the hope I have.
Rayne, wynde or wether I judge by myne eares.
Mallice assaulted that rightiousnes should have,
Sure I am Brian, this wounde shall heale agayne,
But yet, alas, the scarre shall styll remayne.



Sighs are my food, drink are my tears
Clinking of fetters such music would crave.
Stink and close air away my life wears.
Innocency is all the hope I have.
Rain, wind or weather I judge by mine ears.
Malice assaulted that righteousness should have.
Sure I am Brian, this wound shall heal again,
But yet, alas, the scar shall still remain.







A poem written perhaps during Wyatt's last period of imprisonment.

drink are my tears = my tears are the only drink I have.

such music would crave = requires such music, i.e. my sighs and sobbing.

Stink = stench.

close air = noxious stuffy atmosphere.

I judge by mine ears - i.e. I hear them but cannot see them, as I am in a dungeon.

Malice assaulted etc. = Of uncertain meaning, other than implying that the charges against him were maliciously drawn up.

Brian = Sir Francis Brian, a friend of Wyatt's.




Thomas Wyatt


Rondeaus  Misc poems I Misc poems II Misc poems III Epigrams Sonnets1-20 Sonnets 21-31 Satires




 Portrait of The Lady Surry, by Holbein. In His Majesty's Collection.

 From a print published by J. Chamberlain 1st. Jan. 1812.


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