(1557) By most accounts, Sir Thomas Wyatt's visit to Italy in 1527 gave him the incentive to translate several of Petrarch's sonnets into English, including this version of Sonnet 140, which was also translated by Wyatt's contemporary, Henry Howard, earl of Surrey. Wyatt's confidence both in the suitability of English and in his competence as a poet may account for the freedom with which he reinterpreted, rather than slavishly translated, the Petrarchan poems. For example, in this sonnet, line 12 in the original poem alludes to the lover's fear of his master, Love, whereas Wyatt changes the poem to mean that his master, Love, is afraid of the beloved.
Wyatt followed the form of the traditional Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet. He also incorporated many of the common Petrarchan themes derived from the conventions of courtly love. These include an obsessed lover who must endure great hardship in the service of love and a fickle beloved whose indifference causes severe pain to her noble lover. Ultimately, this is a poem about a lover who is in love with a woman, but whose fundamental allegiance is to love itself.
In the first four lines of this poem, Love is personified as a lonely knight who takes shelter in the speaker's thoughts and keeps his home in the speaker's heart. From there, the knight makes bold incursions into the speaker's face, where he displays his insignia in the form of blushes, "spreading his banner" (l. 4). By portraying Love as a separate entity from the lover, the speaker conveys the idea that the lover is a victim who is held hostage by love—whose thoughts, feelings, and outward expressions of love are entirely involuntary.
The next four lines focus on Love's object, known only as "She" (l. 5). The beloved is displeased with Love's boldness, preferring that her lover rein in his unruly passions by the threefold approach of right thinking, emotional control, and spiritual reverence. The beloved holds a position of authority over the lover in that she teaches him how to love, "me learneth to love and suffer" (l. 5), as well as imposes her standards as to which expressions of love are appropriate, "with his hardiness taketh displeasure" (l. 8). Consequently, the lover is torn between the vagaries of love's whims and his beloved's censure of love's boldness.
Whereas the first eight lines set forth the lover's situation, the final six focus on the resolution of his dilemma. In response to the beloved's displeasure, Love flees into the heart's forest (with the common pun on hart, meaning deer, suggesting that Love is preyed upon by the beloved), where he hides unseen, no longer showing himself in the lover's face. In the final three lines, the lover acknowledges that banished love is his master and concludes that he must be Love's faithful servant, going with him into battle, willing to die there for him, "for good is the life ending faithfully" (l. 14). See also Love that doth reign and live within my
Eoley, Stephen M. Sir Thomas Wyatt. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Heale, Elizabeth. Wyatt, Surrey, and Early Tudor Poetry. London and New York: Longman, 1998.
"LORD RANDAL" (15th century) Like most folk ballads, "Lord Randal" enjoyed a lengthy oral tradition until it was recorded in the 17th century, and it focuses on action and dialogue. Lord Randal, a "handsome young man" (ll. 2-3), is confronted by his mother, asking where he has been. His answer is that he has been hunting in the greenwood, but then he says he is weary and wants to lie down. In the next stanza, the mother asks whom he met there. The response is "my true-love" (l. 7), and again he says he is weary and wants to lie down. When his mother asks Lord Randal what his true love gave him to eat, he replies "eels fried in a pan" (l. 11). (In other variations, the meal is fish or snakes). Through a series of questions and answers, Lord Randal reveals that his hawks and hunting hounds have been poisoned: "They swelle and they died, mother" (l. 29).
After the revelation that his hawks and hounds have been poisoned, Lord Randal's mother says she fears he, too, has been poisoned, which Lord Randal readily admits. He wants to lie down, but his mother asks what he leaves. He says he leaves her 24 cows, his sister his gold and silver, and his brother his houses and his lands. Finally, his mother asks what Randal will leave his true love, and he answers, "I leave her hell and fire" (l. 39). The poem ends with the same plaintive wish that ends each of its eight stanzas: "For I am sick at heart, and I fain wad lie down" (l. 40).
Traditional scholarship links this ballad to the death of Thomas Randall, earl of Murray, who was poisoned in 1332 by his sweetheart, an English spy who fed him black eel broth. It is a narrative song whose structuring principle is incremental repetition leading up to its final, deathbed curse for the murderer. The dramatic tension in the poem is its question-and-answer intensity, where each question leads to further, more heartrending revelations. As a victim of fate, the young and handsome Lord Randal must deal with betrayal and jealousy, and the ballad's structure adds to its impending sense of shattered illusions.
See also Middle English lyrics and ballads.
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