Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Galley Charged with Forgetfulness

My galley chargèd with forgetfulness
Through sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
'Twene rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness.
And every oar a thought in readiness
As though that death were light in such a case;
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forcèd sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain
Hath done the wearied cords great hindrance,
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain,
Drownèd is reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

--Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

Wyatt was in the thick of all the intrigues surrounding Henry VIII. It was while serving as Henry's ambassador to various European courts that he developed an interest in French and Italian poetry; the above is actually a loose translation of a sonnet by Petrarch. Wyatt was a confidante of Thomas Cromwell and may have been Anne Boleyn's lover before she married Henry VIII. He survived Boleyn's fall by testifying against her. But when his protector Cromwell fell, he was exposed, and he was soon locked in the Tower for treason. He was released, but, as they say, his health was ruined, and he died not long afterward. He kept his verse secret while he lived -- unless he shared it with his lovers -- and it was first published fifteen years after he died.

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