I am as I am and so will I be
But how that I am none knoweth truly,
Be it evil be it well, be I bond be I free
I am as I am and so will I be.
Sir Thomas Wyatt
My Galley, Charged With Forgetfulness
by Sir Thomas Wyatt
My galley, charged with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
‘Tween rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every oar a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
Drowned is reason that should me consort,
And I remain despairing of the port
Thomas Wyatt life reads like the next installment of Bridgerton, except with mostly unhappy endings. His life is so steeped in myth, rumors and innuendo in what has been passed down that generations of academics have yet to completely unravel fact from fiction. What is chronicled makes for juicy reading. Wyatt was a large athletic man, who was as comfortable in the jousting ring as in matters of court and the arts. A successful diplomat and patron of Thomas Cromwell, Wyatt ran in and out of favor with King Henry the VIII, as he pried the Catholic Church’s stranglehold from all matters of court and bloody birthed the Church of England into being. Cromwell was not so fortunate and was executed for his largely honorable service to his country. Despite rumors of romantic connections to Anne Boleyne, or because of it, Wyatt escaped multiple imprisonments and charges of treason with not only his life, but eventually his reputation and standing in court restored. But luck never seemed to run on Wyatt’s side for very long and in 1941 while on a diplomatic mission with Spain he was struck down by a fever.
Wyatt is credited with introducing the sonnet structure to English verse on whose literary accomplishments Shakespeare would use as a foundation. Wyatt’s poetry was widely circulated during his lifetime and included in anthologies following his death. Writing in a style that was personal, at times bitter and venomous, he was also deeply sentimental and romantic. Wyatt wrote of love from a complex perspective having seen and experienced its many facets. Wyatt’s poetry can run on the dark side, as betrayal was a common muse, knowing it could still a man’s heart every bit as the executioner’s ax in King Henry’s VIII court. While in prison in 1936, he wrote following Cromwell’s execution:
Sighs are my food, drink are my tears;
Clinking of fetters such music would crave.
Stink and close air away my life wears.
Innocency is all the hope I have.
Wyatt’s contribution to the sonnet was unique in history. Wyatt’s sonnets are Petrarchian in their construction but with his own new English twist, he laid the path for Shakespeare to follow.
by John Donne
WHEN by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead,
And that thou thinkst thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see :
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And, in false sleep, will from thee shrink :
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie,
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee ; and since my love is spent,
I’d rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.