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Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind -- Thomas Wyatt

Guest poem submitted by David Florkow:
(Poem #957) Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind
 Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
 But as for me, hélas, 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.
-- Thomas Wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 - 1542) is known, if at all nowadays, for introducing
the Italian sonnet form (as used by Petrarch particularly) into English
usage.  Many of his best poems (such as "Whoso list to hunt") are imitations
of Petrarch (in this case, most likely Petrarch's 190th sonnet).  He was a
diplomat in the service of Henry VIII, traveling to Italy, France and Spain.
Wyatt was imprisioned for his affair with Anne Boleyn; and imprisioned a
second time for treason after the fall of Cromwell.

I like this poem for the way Wyatt expresses personal disappointment and
weariness in the great chase, while still admiring a quarry that has both
eluded him and is now possessed by a greater man (Caesar). All in sonnet

The poet tells of his weariness in hunting a female deer (hind).  He asserts
that he is not giving up, just falling further behind; his wearied mind is
still game. But as she continues to flee, he finally leaves off, recognizing
his hunt to be as fruitless as seeking to catch the wind in a net.  And he
counsels others similarly inclined that they would be spending their time in
vain. Of course, there is more than hunting deer going on here, and the
imagery and the vocabulary take a turn for the more personal in the last
four lines.  For this fleeing female wears around her fair neck a necklace
with diamonds spelling out the last couplet of the poem: a phrase from the
Vulgate: 'touch me not', for I belong to Caesar (or Henry VIII, as the case
may be).  The wonderful final line captures both the passion and the yoked
submission suggested by the diamond necklace, both of great interest to the
speaker, who can appreciate both but enjoy neither.


25 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

amitc said...

Ooh, lovely!
And thanks for your splendid comments, David. They
helped me understand all the archaisms.

Lovestruck5 said...

Thank you a lot. I was struggling on analyzing the poem and now I understand
it. Thank you so much.
A Distraught English Student

Charles Teke said...

Very appealing and enduring poem.Its imagery is captivating and its
message all-embracing.

Rbcham1 said...

Hello My Name is Roderick

I am having trouble understanding what the poem is about (Whoso List To
Hunt). I would like to know what the extended metaphor is? Also I need to
identify the image the speaker uses to show he's finally decided the chase is



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