Guy-Bray, Stephen. "'We Two Boys Together Clinging': The
Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Richmond." English Studies in Canada 21, no. 2 (1995): 138-150. Sessions, William A. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Twayne's
English Authors Series. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
"SOMETIME I FLED THE FIRE" Sir
Thomas Wyatt (ca. 1532-1533) In this epigram, the speaker celebrates his freedom from a lady he once loved. While he claims that he now "follow[s] the coals that be quent" (l. 3) and that "desire is both sprung and spent" (l. 5), Sir Thomas Wyatt's characteristic bitterness does not entirely let the former object of his affections off the hook. The ambiguous final couplet, "And all his labor now he laugh to scorn, / Meshed in the briars that erst was all to-torn," (ll. 7-8) can be read two ways. The speaker may either be declaring his release from the "briars" that once injured him, or he may be ironically observing that he is still caught in her snares, although this time without even the cold comfort of unrequited love, as his feelings for her have died.
Critics may disagree about the exact nature of the relationship depicted in the poem, but they largely agree that the lady in question is Anne Boleyn. As a diplomat, Wyatt was probably in Henry Vlll's or Anne's retinue when the couple met with Francis I of France at Calais in 1532. The speaker's insistence that he has followed the ashes of his former fire "from Dover to Calais, against my mind" makes this reading attractive (l. 4). Neither historians nor literary critics have ever been able to prove a romantic relationship between Wyatt and Anne, but circumstantial evidence suggests that it may have at least been possible. Their background as childhood neighbors, their proximity at Henry's court, and Wyatt's imprisonment with Anne's alleged lovers all provide an intriguing backdrop for poems such as "Whoso List to Hunt" and "Sometime I Fled the Fire." Certainly Wyatt's poetic skill would have assured him a place in the ranks of esteemed Tudor poets without Anne Boleyn. However, the biographical narrative of lost love and courtly ambition will most likely always be a favorite with readers and critics, and it may even generate an interest in poems such as "Sometime I Fled the Fire" that they might not otherwise have received.
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