Sir Thomas Wyatt: Whoso List to Hunt
Posted on 28th February 2021
Born in Alington, Kent, in 1503, the son of a Courtier, Sir Thomas Wyatt is credited with being the man who introduced the ‘Sonnet’ into the English language but is perhaps more famous for being the lover of Anne Boleyn at the time she was being pursued by Henry VIII.
Sometime in the late 1520’s, probably in the performance of his duties as a diplomat and advisor he met and became besotted with the coquettish and flirtatious Anne Boleyn and being one of the few men in the Royal Court as physically imposing as the King himself he caught her eye also. Anne, it seems was receptive of his advances even though she was aware that he was already married, if unhappily, to Elizabeth Brooke by whom he had a son.
Nonetheless, Sir Thomas pursued Anne with purpose, but his wooing was interrupted when he became one those sent to Rome on behalf of the King to petition the Pope for the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. It was clear that the King was no less earnest in his pursuit of Anne - It was time to render unto Caesar.
Whoso List to Hunt is his sad lament on the lover despairing having to bid farewell to the object of his desire.
In May 1536, Sir Thomas Wyatt was arrested on suspicion of having committed adultery with the now, Queen Anne Boleyn, but his long-time association with Henry’s Chancellor Thomas Cromwell was to see him released without charge. Ironic given that he was almost certainly the only one of the accused who did have a sexual relationship with her.
Even so, his amorous intent had almost cost him his life.
A dedicated reader and admirer of Chaucer he would often speak to his friends of using the verse form to raise the English language to that of the most civilised of nations, to stand alongside Greek and Latin. But he was to be as frustrated in art as he was in love seeing none of his poems published in his lifetime.
Sir Thomas Wyatt died on 11 October 1542, aged 38, unaware that he would indeed elevate his native tongue to levels of eloquence and beauty previously unknown but through the words of another, a man upon whom he’d had a profound influence – William Shakespeare.
Whoso List to Hunt
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh 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,
Sithens 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:
Touch me not*, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
*Noli me tangere
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