Spontaneous Poetics – 16 (Thomas Wyatt – 1)

Portrait of Sir Thomas Wyatt   (1503-1542) by Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543 – black and colored chalks, pen and ink, on pink-primed paper, 37.3 x 27.2 cm (circa 1535-1537) , Windsor Castle

AG: John Wieners hardly anyone has read. Ed Dorn..and Basil Bunting has been read (according to Allen’s (unofficial) class survey) by five people. That’s why I brought up the Bunting..

So what I think I’ll do – I’ve done this for some of the (student) papers – in the next day or so, I’ll write up a reading-list of one or two key, interesting knocked-out poems by each one of the names on this list. A little survey of highlights or pinpointed little poems – like (Sir) Thomas Wyatt has a really great, mysterious, very brief poem, that begins “They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,/ With naked foot stalking in my chamber.”

Student: What’s the next line?

AG: “I have seen them them gentle tame and meek that now are wild and do not remember that one time they put themselves in great danger to take food from my hand, that now range outward busily seeking with continual change.. or something” (that’s probably inaccurate after the first line – [it is, an accurate transcription of the ….]). Wyatt also has one of the best ears in English poetry.. I think I’ll read a poem by Thomas Wyatt, while we’re at it, because it’s song. It’s a song that’s a slightly later development than the ballads (that) we were reading, but still, something to be sung, something that could be sung now by Mick Jagger (actually, it would be a perfect lyric for Jagger!) – [Allen proceeds to sing/recite Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “My Lute Awake” in its entirety – “My lute, awake! Perform the last/ Labor that thou and I shall waste,/And end that I have now begun,/For when this song is sung and paste,/My lute, be still, for I have done..”] – That’s really tough. Actually, that’s one of the most penetrating pieces of perception of sexual lack-love that I’ve ever seen, in that “Perchance thee lie withered and old/ The winter nights that are so cold/ Plaining..” – complaining, making plainsong, complaining – “Plaining in vain unto the moon./ Thy wishes then dare not be told”

Student: Do you have in there?

AG: Yes, but it’s irrelevant to what I just read actually, I think.

Student: It sounds a lot like it though

AG: Yeah, yeah, it has the same rhyme – “For thy has done”. But I was more into just the erotic song here, more…

Student: What was the title of that?

AG: “My Lute, Awake!” is what it’s titled in the Norton Anthology. That’s for singing, literally. “My Lute, Awake!” – It would be great actually for Jagger to come on stage – “My lute, awake.. .Perchance thee lie withered and old/ The winter nights that are so cold/…/Thy wishes then dare not be told.” – Wyatt has as interesting an ear as anybody. You could read it sing-song, in a very odd way of.. [Allen begins reading the final stanza, highlighting the iambics – (“My lute, awake! Perform the last/Labor that thou and I shall waste,/ And end that I have now begun,/ For when this song is sung and paste,/My lute, be still, for I have done.”) – It’s perfect metrically, and, at the same time, if you read it actually for its meaning, it’s very jagged and rough in terms of the force, if you were pronouncing it. There are a couple of things that are like that. Actually, you’re right, the Donne thing is, musically, the same echo.

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