Wyatt – They flee from me | Harper's Magazine

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Wyatt – They flee from me

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holbein-wyatt

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, The Lover Showeth How He is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed (ca. 1540) in The Poetical Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt (J. Yeowell ed. 1904), p. 32.

Sir Thomas Wyatt was a diplomat and poet at the court of Henry VIII. He was twice thrown in the Tower of London, once on account of a rebellion launched by his namesake son who sought to put Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) on the throne, and on an earlier occasion probably because he was suspected of being a lover of Anne Boyeln. This very elegant poem speaks of an illicit affair (or perhaps several) and it has sometimes been supposed to be that with the king’s favorite.

Listen to a reading of the poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt (actually, the voice is Jim Clark’s):

Listen to Julian Bream play My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home (mid-16th cen., arrangement John Dowland).

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