A comparison of the themes of Thomas Wyatt and Hen
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A comparison of the themes of Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard
Both Henry Howard and Thomas Wyatt made significant contributions towards the
development of English literature during the reign of King Henry VIII. Through their
translations of Petrarchs’ work, these men were responsible for introducing sonnet form
into English. "Both Wyatt and Surrey helped to change the nature of English
poetry,"(textbook, p.187). They both traveled to Italy and borrowed, as well as imitated
other poets and each other. Instead of originating fresh themes, they repeated
conventional subject matter, mainly focusing on idealized love. Works from both poets
had similar themes of confusion, sadness, and reflection.
Both Howard and Wyatt have translated sonnets, written by Petrarch. In these poems,
the speaker loves a lady, but she will not permit him to declare his love (textbook, p.192).
Wyatt’s translation is called "The Long Love" and is a insightful representation of the
poet’s dual observation of love. Wyatt shows two sides of love, physical and spiritual,
but never a bond between them. He shows his confusion in line 11, "And there him
hideth and not appeareth," wondering why he should hide his love and not profess it.
Howard’s translation is titled "Love That Doth Reign," and is a much more commanding
version. He expresses the speaker’s feelings as unrelinquishing, relating love as life’s
pinnacle achievement. Although both poets relay the poem in different styles, the main
theme of confusion is ever present.
Sadness is also a theme associated with these two poets. Wyatt wrote the poem
"Whoso List to Hunt," about the love of his life, Anne Boleyn. This is a perfect example of a love sonnet, relating the struggles of his mind and spirit, in an attempt to express his
situation with Anne, to the physical hunt for a deer. Line 3 of his poem states, "The vain
travail hath wearied me so sore," expressing his sorrow, fearing King Henry who prized
the lady as well. "The Soote Season," was written by Howard expressing the sadness
over a love of his that has gone away. He describes the beautiful events surrounding him
in nature, but none of them can comfort him. "And thus I see among these pleasant
things, Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs," lines 13 and14, express the
speaker’s feelings. The two poets both feel sadness and frustration, Wyatt because of
King Henry’s interests, and Howard because everything around him is happy and he is
Reflection is also another theme in which Wyatt and Howard, reminisce about past
loves, the memories they stir, and the feelings associated with them. In Wyatt’s "They
Flee From Me," he remembers the loves of his past, telling a story of a man who once
loved many, but now loves no one. Lines 18 and 19 describe the speaker’s reasons for
giving up on love, "And I have leave to go of her goodness, And she also to use
newfangleness ." The character’s good manners have forced him to quit seeing women
who would be unfaithful to him. In line 15, "It was no dream; I lay broad waking," shows
the poets reflection, to be clouded, unsure of the events of his past. "Alas, So All Things
Now Do Hold Their Peace," was written by Howard and stirs up feelings of pain from the
past. Once again his reflection describes the world around him as seemingly perfect,
while his memories, lines 10 and 12, "For my sweet thoughts sometime do pleasure bring,
Gives me pang that inwardly doth sting," only bring him sorrow. The memories cause
him so much grief he wishes that the event had never happened at all; line 14 "To live and lack the thing should rid my pain." The two poets remember their pasts vividly, but
seem only to draw sorrow, from their recollections.
In conclusion, these two Renaissance poets are very similar. Although Wyatt is the
elder of the two, Howard’s works seem to flow more freely. They both focus mainly on
the love sonnet, while Howard adds much natural imagery to his verse. Love is the main
theme in both poets’ works. Their drive is fueled by previous experiences and their
memories. The themes of confusion, sadness, and reflection help the poets to relay their
feelings in several different situations. The reasons for the similarities lie in their
influences, mainly Petrarch, and the fact that they were the only ones to read each others’
work, since the vast majority of their poems were not published until after their deaths in
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Thomas Wyatt, Sonnet, English poetry, Poetry, English Romantic sonnets
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