These lines illustrate Wyatt's unique approach to the sonnet which transcends Petrarch's use of the form and adds a depth of feeling which even later advocates of the structure did not replicate. This closing couplet show that Wyatt's focus is not just on the despair of the spurned lover, as many sonnets before and since have highlighted, but also a bitter condemnation of the cruel lady, indicated by the final rhetorical question.
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.
These lines best illustrate the frustration and anger Wyatt felt at the appropriation of Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII. Here the 'hind', whom the narrator is now too exhausted to pursue, is revealed as a trophy of a great leader. She is richly (and inappropriately) adorned, as Anne was given title when Henry VIII confirmed her as his mistress. There is a tone of warning in the final line in that the 'hind' is not as placid as perhaps her owner believes. Wyatt may well have been warning Henry VIII of Anne's headstrong and assertive nature.
For, hitherto though I have lost my time,
Me list no longer rotten boughs to clime.
This concluding rhyming couplet summarizes the narrator's experience of love. He is regretful that he has wasted time trying for success in love, but philosophical in the knowledge that he now knows to give up on such a futile pursuit.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
Drowned is reason that should me consort,
And I remain despairing of the port.
Here the narrator explains that there is now no guide to help him as the 'stars' which led him are now hidden. Reason, as his personified companion, is drowned, and he remains in turmoil of returning to the safety and security of home. He also seems anxious of what home is, which may reflect on Wyatt's many ambassadorial missions.
But they that sometimes liked my company,
Like lice away from dead bodies they crawl:
This brutal and gruesome simile is used to illustrate the base cruelty with which social relations change within the Tudor court. The poem compares the loyalty of the hunting falcons with the fickle attentions of the human courtiers, as well as comparing former friends to parasites leaving a dead host.
And then may chance thee to repent
The time that thou has lost and spent,
To cause thy lovers sigh and swoon:
Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
And wish and want as I have done.
The narrator asks his audience to reflect on the time they have spent and wasted teasing, misleading and beguiling their lovers. The audience is told that beauty is temporary, and they will be left, in time, as wistful and unsatisfied as the narrator. This lute song is tinged with sadness and regret, but also has a raw, bitter edge typical of Wyatt.
If it be yea, I shall be fain;
If it be nay - friends, as before;
You shall another man obtain,
And I mine own, and yours no more.
This song is a direct appeal for the narrator's lover to reveal her true intent. He is saying that they can remain friends and she can move on to another man if she just clarifies her position that she does not love him. He will then be free to be his own person. The tone of this verse implies that he would rather hear the rejection than the confirmation that his love is reciprocated.
Blame but thyself that has misdone,
And well deserved to have blame;
Change thou thy way, so evil begone,
And then my Lute shall sound that same;
These lines represent a directness in the song whereby the narrator accuses his audience of creating the discord which is being represented in this lute song. The audience first appears to be a lady who has forsaken him, but the poem can also be interpreted as an appeal to Henry VIII.
Though that with pain I do procure
For to forget that once was pure
Within my heart, shall still that thing
Unstable, unsure, and wavering
Be in my mind without recure?
What no, perdie!
The final lines of this rondeau indicate the narrator's strength in overcoming the infidelity of his lover. He explains that he is trying to effect a removal of the deception from his heart and mind. Whilst doing this, Wyatt uses a pun on the word 'procure' to add a tone of sexual licentiousness as a 'counterweight' to the end of his 'pure' love.
I will not wail, lament, nor yet be sad,
Nor call her false that falsely did me feed;
But let it pass, and think it is of kind
That often change doth please a woman's mind.
These lines from the sonnet express Wyatt's realization that it is futile to remain distressed by the inconstancy of women. He reaches a conclusion here that it is the nature of women to seek pleasure in change. He is asserting that women are unable to be faithful, and this should be acccepted as fact rather than mourned and debated.
Sir Thomas Wyatt: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Sir Thomas Wyatt: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.