Sir Thomas Wyatt

“They Flee from Me”

On this date Sir Thomas Wyatt died (1503-1549).

Frye in Rencontre: “The General Editor’s Introduction”:

It used to be said of Wyatt, being older and further down on the evolutionary scale, was a cruder pioneer than Surrey, who the same kind of thing much better.  This view of them resulted from a historical accident.  They both belonged to the courtly class of amateur poets who did not publish their poetry, and were first introduced in Tottel’s Miscellany (1557), on the eve of Elizabeth’s reign.  By that time the new conservatism was in full swing, and the editor of Tottel made many alterations in Wyatt’s work to bring it inl line with Surrey’s, under the impression, so common among editors, that he was improving it.  Fortunately Wyatt’s manuscripts have survived, and we can see from them that he is a poet of older radicalism of Skelton and Dunbar as well as the of the new age, and one of the finest experimental poets of any age:

They flee from me, that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek
That now are wild, and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand: and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

[They Flee from Me, ll. 1-7]  (CW 10, 17-18)

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