In the first verse the narrator appeals to his lady not to leave him in such a state of grief and sorrow. If she does, she will then be responsible for his misery. He repeats his rhetorical question from the first line.
The narrator repeats his petition in the second verse, questioning as to whether she will abandon he who has loved her constantly, through times of profit and anguish. He then questions whether her heart has the strength and capacity to withstand the pressure of her terrible deed. Again he pleads with her not to desert him.
In the third verse, again beginning with his repeated request, he says that he gave his heart to her for them to be together, and not out of a desire to experience pain or embarrassment. His plea this time is for her not to leave him so broken and humiliated.
By the fourth verse the appeal is more plaintive. He asks for compassion, as he has loved her. By line 22 he bemoans her unkindness and brutality. The song concludes with the opening two lines being repeated.
The song is composed of four sestets (six-line verses), each with a refrain, ‘Say nay! Say nay!’, which reflects the tone of desolation and anguish. In the first stanza, the appealing for her to deny her rejection places the effect of the separation more to her disadvantage rather than his. The narrator implies that the lady will be held accountable for the distress she has caused him. Here Wyatt is reminding the audience that courtly relationships are public entities in many ways, and the lady may damage her own reputation by dissolving this union. This implication reminds us of the tense social relationships within the Tudor court, wherein being out of favor could have fatal consequences.
The second stanza deals with losses beyond those of the heart and mind. He reminds the lady of his loyalty and how he has stood by her through good and bad times, which is expressed in the alliterative phrase ‘wealth and woe’. Relationships were often conducted with fiscal implications being important, if not central, and money brought power and security to any match. Here there is a suggestion that his support of her may have been more than as a lover, but also as a financial patron. These sorts of bonds would be difficult for a lady to give up unless there was a replacement for her former beau. There is a veiled warning in the question as to whether the lady’s heart can survive the impact of such a callous action as abandoning the narrator. Her rejection could have consequences on her own emotional - and perhaps physical - state. If she were to break his heart, she may, in turn, damage her own or even fall prey to the court.
By the fourth stanza the narrator is filled with hopelessness at the lady’s dismissal of him. He asserts that her cruelty has destroyed him.
The song concludes with the repetition of the opening two lines. Here Wyatt is using the structure of the song to add further social comment. By using a cyclical arrangement, there is an indication that the situation, along with the refrain and the despair, will be repeated. There is no real resolution offered, merely an indication that the lady will continue to break hearts and the narrator will continue to misplace his loyalty. There is much passion in the song, as indicated by the frequent use of exclamation marks, but no logic or conclusion.