E211 Sir Thomas Wyatt Questions



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Assigned: "The long love" and Petrarch's "Rima 140" (Vol. B, 648-49); "Whoso list to hunt" and Petrarch's "Rima 140" (649-50); "My galley" (651); "Divers doth use" (652); "Madam, withouten many words" (653); "They flee from me" (653-54); "My lute, awake!" (655); "Forget not yet" (656); "Blame not my lute" (656-57); "Who list his wealth and ease retain" (658); "Mine Own John Poins" (659-61).

General Questions

1. After reading the poems referred to below, what sense do you get about the speaker's view of court life? Is that view entirely negative, or is it more nuanced than that? Explain.

2. Again, after reading the poems, what can you say about Wyatt's attitude towards women? By what means does he construct images of females in each poem? What sensibilities, and how much power, do Wyatt's courtly ladies seem to have?

"The long love that in my thought doth harbor"

3. What is the basic conceit, or extended metaphor, of "The long love ..."? Just explain its premise.

4. Now examine the conceit in "The long love ..." more closely; is it more than a one-dimensional emblem for a physiological reaction? Follow the conceit through line 11 -- what does it reveal about the speaker's psyche?

5. Put the speaker, the "I," of "The long love ..." into some relation with the "warrior" of the conceit. What does this relationship reveal about the speaker? Lines 12-14 are important here.

6. What sense do you get of the female in this poem? What sort of character would you say she has, and what leads you to your view in this regard?

7. What are the laws of love referred to in the first line? Does this idea that love has "laws" get contradicted in this poem and elsewhere? If so, how?

"Whoso list to hunt"

8. Study the guide (included at bottom) that contains Petrarch's "Una Candida Cerva" and the passage from The Gospel of Saint John. Compare Wyatt's adaptation in "Whoso list to hunt" to its parent, Petrarch's poem. In bold terms, what is the difference between Petrarch's "white deer" and Wyatt's "hind?"

9. Describe the attitude of each sonnet's speaker in "Whoso list to hunt" and "Una Candida Cerva" towards his predicament and towards his "deer." How does each speaker characterize himself and his situation?

10. Despite the seeming worldliness of Wyatt's "Whoso list to hunt," how might the poem's religious allusions be important to our reading?

Note on Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt": Refer to John 20:15-17: "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." The Vulgate Bible's "touch me not" in Latin is noli me tangere.

"My galley"

11. Explain the basic conceit upon which "My galley" depends. For example, what is the ocean? What is the galley? What are the stars mentioned at the end of the poem?

12. How is "My galley" typical of Wyatt's love poems in its handling of the speaker's expectations and assumptions?

"Divers doth use"

13. How does the speaker's attitude in "Divers doth use" differ from what you have observed in other Wyatt poems? Does his presentation of the female beloved differ? Explain.

"Madam, withouten many words"

14. How does "Madam, withouten many words" contrast words and acts within the rituals of courtship? Does this contrast seem to hold generally in Wyatt's poetry, or does the relationship between words and deeds vary? Explain with reference to at least one other poem.

15. In line 4 of "Madam, withouten many words," what does the word "wit" mean? What exactly is the lover asking for? How does he try to protect himself?

16. What view of courtly love emerges from "Madam, withouten many words"? Describe it, and explain whether that view is what we might call upbeat or downbeat.

"They flee from me" (See also "The Lover Showeth...")

17. Consider the twists and turns in "They flee from me" on the basis of the opposition "aggression/passivity" or "domination/submission." How do images of the speaker and his female companions change through each stanza?

18. What mental process would you suggest that the speaker in "They flee from me" is undergoing? How does Wyatt capture the psychology of the lover with this portrait?

19. How does the twisting quality of "They flee from me" relate to the matter of the speaker's reflections?

20. How do you interpret the phrase, "strange fashion of forsaking" in "They flee from me" as well as the final two lines? Is the speaker challenging the usual Petrarchan representation of females? If so, how?

"My lute, awake!"

21. What is the function of the speaker's address to his lute in "My lute, awake!"? Who else does he address?

22. How is "My lute, awake!" an attempt to bring order to the passions? Explain with specific reference to selected lines in the poem.

"Forget not yet"

23. What is the irony involved in "Forget not yet" -- to what does "forget not this" refer?

24. In "Forget not yet," how does the poet place the writing of verses among the tasks proper to a lover? How does such writing rank with regard to a lover's other tasks or preoccupations?

"Blame not my lute"

25. In what way is lute-playing metaphorical in "Blame not my lute"? What is the speaker suggesting about the source of courtly poetry and of its significance?

"Who list his wealth and ease retain"

26. What do you generally understand to be the purpose/s of the biblical psalms? How does "Who list his wealth and ease retain" resemble a psalm? Try to explain in some detail with specific reference to the poem's language and way of proceeding.

27. What is the purpose of "Who list his wealth and ease retain" in light of the personal circumstances to which the poem refers? What lesson does the speaker draw from his predicament

"Mine Own John Poins"

28. How would you characterize the speaker's state of mind in "Mine Own John Poins"? For example, what seem to be his feelings about being separated from the courtly world? In additon, what view does the speaker offer regarding the monarch, center of the courtly sphere?

29. In "Mine Own John Poins," what contrast between seeming and being does he make? And what contrast between the active and contemplative life do you find? How does this concern about the difference between seeming and being compare with Wyatt's treatment of it in at least one other of his poems we have read?

Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen and Carol T. Christ. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th. edition. Package 1: Vols. A, B, C. Paperback. Norton: 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0393913002.