I was surprised to find that I hadn’t featured this week’s poem before: I must have thought it was too well known, but really it’s one of those poems that can’t be too well known, so it’s time to make amends. When so much of what passes for poetry is merely an exercise in the conventions of the age, to come across the true living voice is always startling.
Sir Thomas Wyatt (1593-1542) figures as a character in Hilary Mantel’s excellent ‘Wolf Hall’ trilogy.
They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, ‘Dear heart, how like you this’.
It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.
Sir Thomas Wyatt
Yes, it’s a true living voice – even four hundred years later.