Wyatt – “Whoso List to Hunt..”

Anne Boleynby unknown artist. National Portrait Gallery, London

AG: .. Maybe a couple more Wyatt [Allen looks through the (Norton) anthology] – Where is that Wyatt? – (page) seventy..?
Peter Orlovsky: Seventy-seven?
Student: Seventy-five?
Student (2): Thomas Wyatt One-twenty
AG: Yeah, Thomas Wyatt, we had him before – Sir Thomas Wyatt – One-fifteen. Just to cover a little Wyatt because we’ve got five minutes. There’s one very famous dirty pun in Wyatt’s sonnet “Whoso List to Hunt…” – “I know where there’s a hind” [where is a hind”] – (I know where there’s a behind!) – “Hind” means… “Hind” is a deer, is it not? Masculine or feminine? – I don’t know, but, anyway. When I studied this poem back in 1945 it was considered to be a witty dirty pun – “Whoever wants to go out and get laid, I know where there is an ass” (Whoso list to hunt/I know where is a hind”)

Whoso list to hunt? I know where is an hind
But as for me, alas!,I may no more,
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore;
I am of them that furthest come behind
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer; but she fleet afore
Fainting I follow; I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt
As well as I may spend his time in vain!
And graven in diamonds, in letters plain,
There is written her fair neck round about;
Noli me tangere; for Caesar’s I am
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

What’s that all about? Well, you figure it out. (See?) Touch me not, I am Caesar’s – So this could actually be the hunt for fame, the hunt for power, the hunt for political power. ‘Don’t touch me, I’m Caesar’s” – or it may be a little poem to some really great whore that was the King’s mistress, that was making it out with everybody, and Wyatt had tried it but had been beaten in the various court contests to see if he could make out with her. There’s one famous line – “Since in the net I seek to hold the wind” [“Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind”]- Pardon me?
Student: Money. Isn’t the poem about money too?
AG: Ah, yes.
Student: (“In vain” may I spend time with her, and graven in diamonds”, around the court..)
AG: Yes
Student: “And graven with diamonds, in letters plain”
AG: Yeah – And graven with diamonds”, yeah. So “and graven..” means.. so diamonds were the cutting stone? – Or diamonds set in the ear?
Student: I guess, I don’t know. It seems to make sense
AG: Yeah, It’s also renunciation. So this is a renunciation of either sex or money or power or competition. And there’s a kind of uncanny statement by the object of the search, the object of desire – “Noli me tangere for Caesar’s I am,/And wild for to hold though I seem tame.”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in]

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