In the first verse of the song, the narrator challenges his lady directly to decide whether she is accepting of his suit. In the first four lines he asks her to give up her tricks and rely instead on her wit to impress him and show her true worth.
He explains in the second verse that he burns with passion, and requests that if she has any compassion for him, she would tell him clearly, yes or no.
By the final verse, he says that he will be happy with the answer yes, but if she says no, they will return to being friends as they were before. She will then be free to move on to get herself a new man, and the narrator will be independent again, and no longer possessed by the lady.
The song is direct in its message, short and to the point. It is a contrast to the plaintive appeals of the wronged lover, in that the narrator asks directly for an acknowledgement of the lady’s true feelings. The opening address is polite but curt; the narrator does not wish to use many words - the implication being that many may have already been wasted on this subject.
The brevity and clarity of purpose and direction in this song is a refreshing deviation from the traditional sorrowful and grief-stricken appeal to the lost love. The narrator tells the lady to leave her ‘bourds’, or tricks, and instead reveal her wit publicly. Here Wyatt suggests that the lady who is the intended audience is more than the average court beauty - she has intelligence too, a trait not often commended in women at this time. This appeal to the lady to show her cleverness publicly would fit with the historical accounts of Anne Boleyn as a sharp and knowledgeable woman, as well as a great beauty.
In the second verse the narrator talks of himself as one who ’burns alway’. This expression could suggest that he is tortured by his rejection, but there are other implications to this phrase. The narrator could equally burn with anger, shame or even in the recognition of his sin. A likely interpretation of Wyatt’s intention would be a combination of these. Courtly liaisons were rarely private affairs for long, and Wyatt had at least two relationships that were controversial and public - one with Anne Boleyn and another with Elizabeth Darrell. In addition to this, Wyatt’s marriage was destroyed by his wife’s infidelity; the author certainly experienced being ‘burnt’ in relationships. He asks if she has pity, but does not directly ask for pity. This distinction is important in affirming the strength of the narrator in the relationship.
The final verse suggests that the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will not have dramatic implications but rather clear and purposeful ones. If she agrees to his suit, then he will be ‘fain’ (happy). There is of course a clever pun at use here as the homophone ‘feign’ means false, and it would be difficult to tell the two words apart without seeing the written word. If the narrator is rejected, he says that they will return to being friends. There is no implication that he will be destroyed by grief or will mourn forever; the result will be undramatic. The narrator callously implies that the lady will move on to another lover. He, however, will be content to be ‘mine own’ – his own man. His final words show that he will be relieved to no longer be owned by the lady. His freedom sounds much more appealing than her return to the fakery of courtly relationships, which again affirms the strength of the narrator as opposed to the audience.