Sir Thomas Wyatt: Poems

Sir Thomas Wyatt: Poems Summary and Analysis of 'What No, Perdie!'


The narrator asserts that he is suffering greatly from the torture of rejection. He tells his audience that she is not to believe that he is tempted by her lure (a falconer’s reference), or that her contradictory words and gestures draw him in. With her balancing of sweet and sour, her methods are too challenging to tolerate. The narrator says that the truth is tested where such deceptive arts are customary.

The tone of the poem changes slightly with Wyatt’s use of ‘But’ to begin line 7. He questions whether the rejection he has endured will continue, and whether his heart will remain unsteady, uncertain and indecisive. He answers his question with the song’s refrain: ‘What no, perdie!’ – I swear not.


This rondeau is a slight deviation from the traditional form, as classic rondeaux usually had a maximum of thirteen lines, and Wyatt’s version here has fifteen. The rondeau does, however, use the regular form of repeating a refrain twice within the lyrical poem.

The initial tone of the poem appears to be desperate frustration at the infidelity of his lady. The first line ends with an exclamation mark to indicate his despair. The first phrase is an oath, showing the narrator’s assertive rejection of the sentiment indicated before the lyric began. There is drama and realism in beginning the lyric in the middle of the action; the reader can imagine overhearing the conversation and being drawn in to eavesdrop as the debate becomes heated at the point of the oath.

The narrator is refuting the attempts to lure him – literally and metaphorically – by his audience. The metaphor of the falconer’s lure is used along with a reference to the term ‘alluring’ The source for his frustration starts to become evident as her expressions and actions are contradictory and misleading. He refers to a balance between ‘sweet and sour’, an interesting metaphor, making her seem like a dish to be eaten and implying that she is offering her favors ‘on a plate’. Thus at this point we begin to feel that the narrator is not just the jilted lover; he is a witty and acerbic observer of sexual politics. He notes that the legitimacy of emotion is bound to be on trial in such a setting of inconstancy – as the Tudor court certainly was – and this implies that he is not surprised by her deception.

He then questions the lady as to whether she thinks that his affection will last forever as she has had his heart. The tone with which he asserts that this is not the case is a clear indicator of the strength of the narrator.

By the tenth line, the use of language becomes sexually ambiguous. The word ’procure’ can mean that the narrator is trying to erase the memory of his rejection. However, the word ‘procure’ also means to obtain a sexual partner. Wyatt may be using a pun here to suggest that part of his efforts to accept the rejection of his lady is to move on to other lovers. This adds an irony also if he is alleging that these actions are a bid to forget the impure behavior of the lady. There is a use of caesura and enjambment here which breaks the regularity of the lyric, and indicates a deviation from the regular form. Line 11 states – ‘For to forget that once was pure’ The phrase continues in to line 12 – ‘Within my heart,’. This continuance through enjambment implies that her purity only existed in his heart; in his love for her, but not in the reality of her actions.

The narrator then asks whether his heart will retain the insecurity and lack of trust that currently plagues him. The answer is presented in the passionate refrain: of course not, by God!

The lyric may begin as a plaintive message from a wronged and embittered lover, but by its end Wyatt has created a song of closure, of moving on and a passionate rejection of the mistakes of his past.