Quote of the Day


From The Tudors, Lord Surrey reads his translation of an epigram by Martial to Charles Brandon

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was “sincere in all his doings. If he was alive today, he’d be Canadian.” — Nicola Shulman, Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy (via TLS)

Frye on Wyatt and Surrey:

Wyatt and Surrey, at the court of Henry VIII, were the pioneers of a new conservatism, though this has to be qualified for Wyatt, as we shall see. Surrey in particular established for the sixteenth century a new pentameter line, based on the contemporary pronunciation of the language, heavier than Chaucer’s line though lighter than the post-Miltonic ones. The two poets introduced the sonnet into English from Italian and French sources, mainly Petrarch. Petrarch is earlier than Chaucer, but in English (this does not apply to Italian) the sonnet has a rounded, epigrammatic, almost three-dimensional quality: like perspective painting, it belongs in the Renaissance, not to the flat narratives or the delicate pastel lyrics of medieval poetry. Wyatt followed the five-rhyme Petrarchan form, but Surrey introduced the freer structure, of three quatrains and a couplet, which is more suitable to English, and which Shakespeare alsoused. Surrey also brought in the major invention of blank verse, and both poets experimented with other forms, such as the so-called “poulterer’s measure” of alternating six and seven-foot lines. (CW 10, 16-17)

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One thought on “Quote of the Day

  1. Bob Denham

    Wyatt, “My Favorite Poet”: N. Frye to Helen Kemp 17 November 1936

    I was amused by your descriptions of life as lived by the presiding spinsters in Wymilwood, particularly at the Smith’s [Florence Smith’s] remark that a lot of sexual intercourse went on in Toronto (poor old girl: they should breed a special kind of stud for that sort of female. I’ve been wrestling with one exactly like her all week—the woman who edited the definitive {I’m afraid} edition of Wyatt [Agnes Kate Foxwell, The Poem of Sior Thomas Wyatt], my favorite poet as I think I said. She reduced me to a sort of incoherent splutter when I came to write my paper. Wyatt was a lover of Anne Boleyn’s, and was arrested when she was: the spinster’s Appendix F is designed to prove that Wyatt never, never actually went to bed with Anne, but that “on the contrary, the relation between them was an agreeable one.”) Darling, if you think I’m going into Wymilwood to carry on Cultured Conversation, with a lot of Goggle eyed Gorgons without you there to protect me, you’ve got a second guess. . . . Now, I must really stop purring and cooing over your letter and pass to the less attractive topic of myself.
    Blunden last night. Paper on Wyatt: by no means a bad paper, though not very well organized: I didn’t start writing it until ten that morning, and the splutter over addle headed critics as aforesaid also interfered. Blunden said he had noticed that all his students who really understood what poetry was about liked Wyatt, which was no doubt a compliment. That man must listen to my papers more carefully than I thought. I was listening to a lecture of his on Chesterton last Wednesday in which I suddenly heard a paraphrase of a passage in the last paper I read him, followed by an application of the general principle it embodied to Chesterton. After the lecture he nodded cheerfully at me and said: “I stole from you, but unwillingly: and it was only petty larceny anyhow.” I’m just going to take what Blake there is over to him: I want the “favorable half yearly report” to get to Ottawa before the end of term. I don’t want to stay here during the Christmas Vac. if I can help. (CW 2:634)


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