Sir Thomas Wyatt was one of the bright poetic lights at the court of Henry VIII, often credited along with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey for introducing the sonnet from Italy into England. Anne Boleyn fans will remember the poem he is said to have written about her in her youth, Whoso List to Hunt, as well as the moving Circa Regna Tonat (It Thunders Through the Realm) on her arrest (I’ve posted it – read it here).
Surrey wrote stanzas on Wyatt’s death (entitled, fittingly, Stanzas on Wyatt’s Death):
Wyatt resteth here, that quick could never rest :
Whose heavenly gifts increased by disdain ;
And virtue sank the deeper in his breast :
Such profit he by envy could obtain.
A head, where wisdom mysteries did frame ;
Whose hammers beat still in that lively brain,
As on a stithe, where that some work of fame
Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain’s gain.
A visage stern, and mild ; where both did grow
Vice to contemn, in virtue to rejoice :
Amid great storms, whom grace assured so,
To live upright, and smile at fortune’s choice.
A hand, that taught what might be said in rhyme ;
That reft Chaucer the glory of his wit.
A mark, the which (unperfected for time)
Some may approach, but never none shall hit.
A tongue that serv’d in foreign realms his king ;
Whose courteous talk to virtue did inflame
Each noble heart ; a worthy guide to bring
Our English youth by travail unto fame.
An eye, whose judgment none effect could blind,
Friends to allure, and foes to reconcile ;
Whose piercing look did represent a mind
With virtue fraught, reposed, void of guile.
A heart, where dread was never so imprest
To hide the thought that might the truth advance ;
In neither fortune loft, nor yet represt,
To swell in wealth, or yield unto mischance.
A valiant corpse, where force and beauty met :
Happy, alas! too happy, but for foes,
Lived, and ran the race that nature set ;
Of manhood’s shape, where she the mould did lose.
But to the heavens that simple soul is fled,
Which left, with such as covet Christ to know,
Witness of faith, that never shall be dead ;
Sent for our health, but not received so.
Thus for our guilt this jewel have we lost ;
The earth his bones, the heaven possess his ghost.
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