Featured Poem: Sir Thomas Wyatt, ‘They flee from me …’

Sir Thomas Wyatt is not much read now outside of the seminar room, but the musicality of this poem deserves a hearing. Wyatt is known as one of the poets who introduced the Petrarchan sonnet to English, but he also had a career in the court of Henry VIII and was imprisoned in the Tower of London more than once. He was suspected of being one of Anne Boleyn’s lovers and was also close to Catherine Howard. Perhaps surprisingly he succeeded in dying of natural causes in 1542, aged 39.

The Lover showeth how he is forsaken of such as he sometime enjoyed.

They flee from me, that sometime did me
seek,
With naked foot stalking within my
chamber:
Once have I seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild, and do not once remember,
That sometime they have put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking in continual change.
Thanked be Fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once especial,
In thin array, after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown did from her shoulders 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; for I lay broad awaking:
But all is turn’d now through my gentleness,
Into a bitter fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness ;
And she also to use new fangleness.
But since that I unkindly so am served:
How like you this, what hath she now deserved?

Posted by Chris Routledge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *