As noted in the introductory materials, Sir Thomas Wyatt experienced a variety of ups and downs in his life from serving as a valued member in King Henry’s court to serving a prison sentence in the Tower of London. In what ways does his poetry reflect the ups and downs experienced in his life? Is there a dominant tone in his poetry, or does his poetry reveal some sort of ambivalence consistent with his life’s experiences?
His poetry reflects his ups and downs pretty clearly because some of them talk about death and lament and pain (sonnet 10- lines 5-8, sonnet 29-lines 9-14, etc) and then there are some that talk about love and kissing and pride as well as other pleasant things (Ballad 80-lines 12-14, Epigram 60-lines 7-8). I think that some of the poems have a clear dark tone but then there are also some that are lighter and happier and so I think this reflects the good and bad times that he went through during his lifetime.
His poetry definitely reflects where he is in his life. His poems during and directly following his times of imprisonment and sorrow project an eerie, somber tone. During happier, more prosperous times, his poetry is lighter. There is no dominant tone consistent throughout all of his poetry. Rather, the tone reflects his experiences. Writers often use their own experiences to inspire their writing, and Sir Thomas Wyatt is no different.
I don’t see a singular dominant emotion or feeling of ambivalence throughout his poetry. Conversely, his works seem to span a great range of tones that could suggest his position in life at the time. For example, Epigrams 38 and 60 seem to have very calming and joyous tones. Epigram 38 is about love and romance and Epigraph 60 references his trip back to London from Tagus. The lighthearted tone can be seen when he writes “My king, my country, alone for whom I live,/Of mighty love the wings for this me give.” The more somber writing is found in the Sonnets, for example Sonnet 29 reads “To mine unhap, for hap away hath rent/Of all my joy the very bark and rind” (5-6). It is unclear when exactly he wrote each of these pieces because they were all published after his death in 1557, but the tones help us to understand more of his personal context.
Some of his poems have heart wrenching tales and idea, like when he says in Sonnet 29 “My mind in woe, my body full of smart,/ And I myself, myself always to hate,” (12-13) or when he references the power of the gun as “Slaughter, wrath, and waste,” in Sonnet 48 (4). On the other hand, there are some noble points in his poetry like when he glorifies self-sacrifice for one’s King in Sonnet 10 where he says “For good is the life ending faithfully,” (14). Even still he accepts the changes (even the unfortunate ones) that come his way in the name of serving his superior when he says in Sonnet 60 “My king, my country, alone for whom I live,” (7). These ideas he held true to about serving his king are reinforced in his poems just as his painful experiences are manifested in them as well. Overall, most of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poems tend to have a theme of nobility and sacrifice for those he serves.
Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poetry seems to be very reflective of someone who has experienced immeasurable highs and lows in his life. Sonnet 29 for example depicts someone who believes that “by chance [he is] Dearly to mourn till death do it relent” (lines 7-8), meaning that he feels he is doomed to bad luck and misery throughout his life, and that that’s just the hand that he’s been dealt. There’s nothing he can do to change it. A lot of his works seem to deal with lost love, which even though those relationships ultimately dissolve for one reason or another, he clearly seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his time with these women before things began to look bleak. As for a recurring tone in his work, I don’t really see one that stands out in all of the texts we’ve read of his. The most overarching aspect that I see in his work is that it’s very self-oriented. They’re all about the narrator and how they see themselves or their own experiences.
Sir Thomas Wyatt poetry does reflect his life. He expresses betrayal a lot. He shows how he has been betrayed and who has crosses his path. He talks about how love has affected him, political issues, and life in general. That shows his ups and downs.
Wyatt’s poetry reflects the highs and lows of his life, meaning that it would be impossible for the tone of his writing to be consistent, nor could it be ambivalent. His writings do, however, are dominated by a coming-of-age theme, in which his youthful ignorance (i.e. his time serving in government) could be considered a high. As he grows older and his ignorance fades, he comes into a more somber period in life (i.e. his time in prison), until he comes to understand that life, rather than an ultimate high or low, is a series of both. He writes in his tenth sonnet, “The long love that in my thought doth harbour and in mine heart doth keep its residence,” which could refer to a romantic love, or a love of his profession, implied when he writes, “For good is the life ending faithfully.” Later, though, he seemingly gives up on the assurance of a faithful, loving life when he writes, “Farewell, Love, and all they laws forever” in his 31st sonnet. He attributes his shortcomings to universal interference, writing, “But since that thus it is by destiny, what can I more but have a woeful heart” in his 29th sonnet. His youthful ignorance has given way to a belief that no one can be inherently innocent and faithful. He comes to terms with this ever-changing attitude towards life in his 94th ballad and 109th song, writing, respectively, “Though my songs be somewhat strange, and speaks such words as touch thy change, blame not my lute,” and “then may chance thee to repent the time that thou hast lost and spent to cause thy lovers sigh and swoon.” Wyatt has clearly, by this point, experienced immeasurable highs and lows, but rather than attributing his highs to his own success and privilege while attributing his lows to societal interference, as he had before, he comes to the realization that, despite the fact that being purely faithful and perfect is impossible, but he mustn’t give up on the pursuit of perfection because, even though his lows are a mixture of universal interference and his own shortcomings, surrendering all his power to the Universe will do nothing but guarantee him a lowly life; he’ll have no chance of achieving success.
With a life so filled with major swings such as being charged with treason after being knighted, it is easy to see why the tones of his writing are so different. They are directly outcomes of his current situations– Sonnet 60 is speaking directly to “the grains of gold” featured in a Spanish river near where he worked abroad as a diplomat. They also seem to reflect his life outside of work and rather with love, Sonnet 38 speaks of a dominating love so strong that “another kiss shall have [his] life ended”. Overall the tone is a direct reflection of where he is in his life, illustrated in both of these examples.
Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poetry is very reflective of his personal experiences. From being a valued member of the court of Henry VIII to getting imprisoned twice, Wyatt had a tumultuous life. Sonnet 29 is a prime example of his feelings of misery. “Dearly to mourn till death do it relent” speaks to these feelings and how his grief is a result of great misfortune (line 80). In contrast to this, Sonnet 60 depicts his travels in Tagus. He also honors the king he served at that time in the lines 7-8, “My king, my country, alone for whom I live, Of might love the wings for this me give”. This shows great dedication to his king and as well highlights themes of nobility.
With the multitude of scholarly analysis of the period, we are lucky enough today when studying the life of 17th Century Thomas Wyatt in that we are ble to better understand his substance by being aware of the political turmoil of the time. In his profession, Wyatt experienced many forms of rule all the while doing his best to serve the crown. In his text, the pressure of this constant strife and the lessons learned with experience in execution and debauchery is transparent when he speaks of in his first sonnet of a master who still questions his subjects when all they wish “But in the field to live and die” (18). There is an ever present undertone where even in his brightest scenes, Wyatt attributes the excess of anything good to an evil moral constitution. To write of the times was not to critique the oppressive forces restricting literature but to cry out in the very work itself for a revelation in thinking of the role of the monarch in a developing society.
The works of Sir Thomas Wyatt clearly represent the fluxes within his own life. Poets are often inspired by the happenings of their own life, and, even unwillingly, they more often than not can serve as influence for the poetry they create throughout their lives. For example, one of his sonnets is speculated to reflect his pains over the execution of Thomas Cromwell, a statesman and former patron of Wyatt. He writes, “The pillar perished is whereto I leant……And I, alas, by chance am thus assigned / Dearly to mourn till death do it relent……What can I more but have a woeful heart, / My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry,” (29). Here the narrator of the poem is lamenting over a person close to him that he has lost, and he even says that all he can do now is to “have a woeful heart, / My pen in plaint,” as the only thing left for him to do is to write about his misfortune.
I definitely agree with you Michael, that Sir Thomas Wyatt is a poet inspired by the happenings of his own life. I’m in a poetry class right now and some of my best writings are ones that have been influenced most by the valleys and mountains of my life. Interestingly, our book places both of Wyatt’s sonnets (10 & 29)- written in the year 1557- next to one another. Their placement feels like a juxtaposition because their tone and topic are very different. Wyatt’s poetry does not display a dominant tone nor does his writing seem to fall within the rigid religious structure that was more prevalent in the Medieval times.
Wyatt’s writing shows great influence from his life experiences, so there is no overarching tone to his work. There are some sonnets that depict a sense of nobility and devotion to God and his King (Sonnet 60), whereas others carry a more sorrowful or gruesome tone (Sonnet 29). Instead of writing to convey a specific message to an audience, his writing is influenced by his current emotions, some even dealing with more personal affairs such as in Sonnet 38 and are not accordant with any specific theme.