Sir Thomas Wyatt


'Wyat resteth here that
quick could never rest'

Wyatt is buried in the north transept of Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, England. He was born at Allington Castle near Maidstone in Kent but his family originally came from Yorksire. He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge and then followed his father into the world of London court life where he was employed in Henry VIII's diplomatic service. He was posted to France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Memorial for Sir Thomas Wyatt by Andrew Rabbott

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Wyatt first visited Italy in 1527 where he encountered the work of writers such as Petrarch and Horace. He was greatly influenced by them and began to translate their work into English. He was particularly instrumental in popularising the use of the sonnet form. However, it was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey who is credited with inventing the Engish sonnet which had three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet - as opposed to the Italian sonnet which had 2 quatrains and a sestet. It was this new type of sonnet which was used by Shakespeare in his renowned sonnet sequence. The term 'sonnet' derives from the Italian for 'little song'.

Wyatt also experimented with other verse forms such as terza rima, roundeau, ottava rima and he popularised the use of Poulter's Measure - which is a meter of alternating lines of iambic hexameter and iambic heptameter.

Wyatt was a close associate of Anne Boleyn, (Henry's second wife) and when he confessed that she had been his mistress he was imprisioned in the tower in 1536 - but his frankness saved him from execution. After the execution of his friend Thomas Cromwell in 1540 Wyatt was arrested again, this time for treason. He was released two months later but never regained his influence.

Wyatt's reputation today is mixed: C.S. Lewis referred to him as 'the father of the Drab Age' but other observers have seen him as a creative and inventive poet. However, he has tended to be overshadowed by the Earl of Surrey.

None of Wyatt's work was published during his life time. He wrote mainly about romantic love but also crafted satires about the hypocrisy of court life. He was a great admirer of Chaucer and his pioneering love poems were a major influence on John Donne.

Wyatt died in October 1542 of a fever contracted after hard riding on a last  diplomatic errand. Wyatt's epitaph: 'wyat resteth here that, quick could never rest' is the first line of a memorial poem by the Earl of Surrey.

Alas, madam, for stealing of a kiss
Have I so much your mind there offended?
Have I then done so grievously amiss
That by no means it may be amended?

Then revenge you, and the next way is this:
Another kiss shall have my life ended,
For to my mouth the first my heart did suck;
The next shall clean out of my breast it pluck.





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