Saturday, 22 March 2014

Wyatt: They flee from me...


By a small miracle, there are now two good history series running on BBC2 - Monday's The Plantagenets and Friday's A Very British Renaissance, presented by the suave art historian James Fox. Last night's programme featured Sir Thomas Wyatt's great poem They Flee From Me - in itself a powerful demonstration of an English literary renaissance under way in the reign of Henry VIII (though Wyatt's poems were not intended for publication and were only published some years after his death). Wyatt died of a sudden illness at the age of 39, having more than once had a narrow escape from the executioner's axe. Imprisoned in the Tower of London after being accused of adultery with Anne Boleyn, he very probably watched from his cell window as she was beheaded, preceded by five men accused of being her lovers. Luckily for Wyatt, he had powerful protectors, and each fall from grace was followed by a return to favour. But there were other falls from favour from which there was no returning, as They Flee From Me makes clear..
  When, last year, I was posting a personal Anthology, I was going to include this poem, partly because I still remember the electrifying impact it had on me when I first read it - at school, under the tutelage of the inspirational English teacher of whom I've written elsewhere. For many years I had it by heart, and can still, with an effort, retrieve it all. The first great (short) poem in the (modern) English language? Certainly the first great poem of its kind, influenced by Italian models but unmistakably English, in its intensity and frankness of address looking forward to the Metaphysicals, and thence to us, to whom this poem, nearly five centuries old, still speaks with astonishing directness.


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.

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Well, at the risk of sounding like Mandy Rice-Davis, I found James Fox's programme to be laughably distorted. He seemed to be presenting the programme without acknowledging that a rather major event - the Reformation - had occurred. An event which, in terms of its effects on the physical survival of late medieval and early renaissance English art, could be likened to a Pol Potian Year Zero.

    And to take Foxes' Book of Martyrs as a seemingly impartial guide, well..............Ian Paisley would have done a better job.

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  3. I just liked the way he came up with some unexpected things and names I wasn't familiar with - and he was certainly good on the painting side of things. I'm sure the Bigger Picture could be argued every which way...
    I wonder if this Fox is a descendant of John Foxe?

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  4. شركة نقل عفش بالرياض وجدة والدمام والخبر والجبيل اولقطيف والاحساء والرياض وجدة ومكة المدينة المنورة والخرج والطائف وخميس مشيط وبجدة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة نعرضها مجموعة الفا لنقل العفش بمكة والخرج والقصيم والطائف وتبوك وخميس مشيط ونجران وجيزان وبريدة والمدينة المنورة وينبع افضل شركات نقل الاثاث بالجبيل والطائف وخميس مشيط وبريدة وعنيزو وابها ونجران المدينة وينبع تبوك والقصيم الخرج حفر الباطن والظهران
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بينبع
    شركة نقل عفش بالخرج

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  5. شركة سكاي لخدمات نقل العفش والاثاث بالمنطقة العربية السعودية نحن نوفر خدمات نقل اثاث بالرياض ونقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة ونقل عفش بمكة ونقل عفش بالطائف نحن نقدم افضل نقل اثاث بخميس مشيط ونقل عفش بجدة
    شركة سكاي نقل العفش
    مدونة لنقل العفش
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

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