Wyatt & Sidney


Thomas Wyatt (biography)

1503–42, English poet and statesman, father of Sir Thomas Wyatt. He served in various capacities under Henry VIII and was knighted in 1536. It is generally agreed he had been the lover of Anne Boleyn before her marriage to the king. Greatly influenced by the works of the Italian love poets, Wyatt produced the first group of sonnets in English, modeled chiefly after Petrarch. Thus, Wyatt is credited for having introduced the sonnet, in its Italian or Petrarchan style, to English literature. Besides sonnets, he wrote lyrics, rondeaus, satires, and a paraphrase of the penitential psalms. None of his poems appeared in his lifetime. Ninety-six, however, were published in Tottel's Miscellany (1557), an important early anthology.

Sir Thomas Wyatt "Whoso List to Hunt"

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, alas, 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:
Noli me tangere*, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

*(Noli me tangere--don't touch me)

“Whoso List to Hunt” Discussion Questions

1) Wyatt uses a Petrarchan sonnet structure. What is the rhyme scheme for the 14 lines?
2) How does the speaker feel about hunting? Why does he go on with the hunt and what is his advice to the others?
3) If the deer or “hind” in the poem is really supposed to represent Anne Boleyn, soon-to-be wife of Henry VIII, what is the “warning” that the speaker is really giving?
4) What might actually be “her fair neck round about”?

Sir Philip Sidney (biography)

1554–86, English author and courtier. He was one of the leading members of Queen Elizabeth's court and a model of Renaissance chivalry. He served in several diplomatic missions on the Continent and in 1586 was fatally wounded at the battle of Zutphen. Sidney exerted a strong influence on English poetry as patron, critic, and example. His literary efforts circulated only in manuscript during his lifetime. Arcadia (1590), a series of verse idyls connected by prose narrative, was written for his sister Mary, countess of Pembroke. It is the earliest renowned pastoral in English literature. Sidney's prose criticism of the nature of poetry, written as a rebuttal to Stephen Gosson's The School of Abuse, appeared in two slightly different versions—The Defense of Poesie and An Apology for Poetry (both 1595). Astrophel and Stella (1591) is one of the great sonnet sequences in English and was inspired by his love for Penelope Devereux, later Lady Rich. Sidney, however, married Frances Walsingham in 1583.

Sir Phillip Sidney "Sonnet 31"

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What, may it be that even in heav'nly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries!
Sure, if that long-with love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case,
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, ev'n of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be lov'd, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?

“Sonnet 31” Discussion Questions

1) What four lover's complaints are expressed in the sestet?
2) Describe the appearance of the moon.
3) What is the connection between the appearance of the moon and the thoughts the speaker utters?
4) Paraphrase lines 3-4 and lines 5-8.
5) Judging by what is said in the sonnet, what do you infer about the speaker's relationship with his lady?

Sir Phillip Sidney "Sonnet 39"

Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low.
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

“Sonnet 37” Discussion Questions

1) What benefits does the speaker attribute to sleep in lines 1-4?
2) Literally, what are the fierce darts that Despair hurls (line 6)?
3) What might the metaphor "civil wars" (line 7) signify?
4) In what sense could sleep see Stella's image in the speaker?
5. Why is the speaker addressing sleep?