National Poetry Month: Day 5

Way back when I was an undergraduate, before my mission, I took a class on Shakespeare. I had read some Shakespeare before, but this class particularly focused on rhetoric and on Shakespeare's writing. We spent quite a bit of time on the sonnets, and my professor even had us write a sonnet (mine wasn't very good), and I fell in love with sonnets. After that first time, I took several other classes on Early Modern literature, both in England and the rest of Europe. I still love sonnets; I love the way that a tight form governs word choice and I love their particular rhythm. A sonnet is beauty wrapped up in a neat little package.

This is a sonnet that I encountered several times in my studies. It was written by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who is generally considered to be the person who introduced the sonnet form to England through his translations of Petrach. He was a member of the Tudor court and was one imprisioned on suspicion of having an affair with Anne Boleyn. Many people think this poem refers to Anne Boleyn as the forbidden deer (or hind) that he wanted to hunt and yet could never catch. There was a legend that Cesaer's royal deer wore diamond collars inscribed in Latin "touch me not for I am Cesaer's". I don't know why I love this particular sonnet so much; it's just fun to read out loud.

Whoso list to hunt
by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
 
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens 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 with 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.

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