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"BLAME NOT MY LUTE" Sir Thomas Wyatt (ca. 1535) Despite the title, this poem does not portray the poet as a man inspired to poetry by his lady's disdain. Instead, this lyric is addressed to a lady who has blamed the poet's lute for reporting her infidelity and broken its strings in her anger. The poet, however, asks her not to blame his instrument: "And though the songs which I indite / Do quit thy change with rightful spite, / Blame not my lute" (ll. 19-21). He goes on to argue that it is not the lute's fault because he is its master, and, in fact, the lady has no one to blame but herself: "Then since that by thine own desert / My songs do tell how true thou art, / Blame not my lute" (ll. 2628). Although the speaker chastises the lady, it is a gentle rebuke. He reminds her just as the lute is but the poet's instrument, so, too, is the poet the instrument of truth. He must record the truth about the lady, and any spite she feels is only felt through her own design.
The poem's recipient remains unidentified. Since court poetry was meant to be performed and not published, the intended addressee might only have identified herself by the details in the lyric or by a meaningful glance from the poet, and similarly only revealed herself through a blush: "And if perchance this foolish rhyme / Do make thee blush at any time, / Blame not my lute" (ll. 40-42).
The game of courtly love depended on the servility of the lover and his need to publicize that enslavement in verse. This poem illustrates Sir Thomas Wyatt's plain style as well as his ethical exploration of the courtly love scenario. Instead of humbly submitting to the lady's punishment, Wyatt will—must—speak the truth. He rejects the servile position that the game of love demands, and instead demands that she also live up to the truth.
See also court culture.
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