“wylde for to hold”

Who so list to hount, I knowe where is an hynde,
But as for me, helas, I may no more:
The vayne travaill hath weried so sore
I ame of theim that farthest commeth behinde.
Yet may I by no meanes my weried mynde
Drawe from the Diere: but as she fleeth afore,
Faynting I folowe. I leve of therefore,
Sins in a nett I seke to hold the wynde.
Who list her hount, I put him owte of dowbte,
As well as I may spend his tyme in vain;
And, graven with Diamonds, in letters plain
There is written her faier neck rounde abowte:
Noli me tangere, for Caesars I ame;
And wylde for to hold, though I seme tame.

I first read Thomas Wyatt’s poetry in college, and had the singular, wonderful experience of listening to the mellifluous voice of my English-born Renaissance literature professor read this sonnet, a translation from Petrarch.  Wyatt (1503-1542) was rumored to be Anne Boleyn’s lover, though he managed to escape execution for the supposed offense, and often this poem is read as a wistful forgoing of her companionship.

The poem’s form never interferes with its meaning, and, I think, makes this one of the most pleasing sonnets to read aloud. I’ve reproduced it here with something close to its original spelling, and I’ve tried to make the punctuation as unobtrusive as possible (you’ll find different punctuation in almost every published version of the sonnet).

Something I noticed on this reading: At line 11, the speaker’s note that the “hynde” wears a diamond collar indicating Caesar’s ownership begins with “And” — it’s almost an afterthought. The exhausting chase makes the hunt impossible, not Caesar’s prior claim.

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