The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Anger

by Heather R. Darsie

Another poem written by Sir Thomas Wyatt and allegedly about Anne Boleyn shows how upset he was at Anne for losing her. Calling her an old mule and pointing out that she now had a few grey hairs, Wyatt repeatedly calls the subject of the poem a “mule.”

Devira Achille, protrait of Anne Boleyn for a lithography project in 2016, via WikiMedia Commons.

Ye Old Mule

Ye old mule that think yourself so fair,
Leave off with craft your beauty to repair,
For it is true, without any fable,
No man setteth more by riding in your saddle.
Too much travail so do your train appair.
        Ye old mule
With false savour though you deceive th’air,
Whoso taste you shall well perceive your lair
Savoureth somewhat of a Kappurs stable.
        Ye old mule
Ye must now serve to market and to fair,
All for the burden, for panniers a pair.
For since gray hairs been powdered in your sable,
The thing ye seek for, you must yourself enable
To purchase it by payment and by prayer,
        Ye old mule.

If this poem truly is about Anne Boleyn, it could be in response to the public news in 1533 of her marriage to Henry VIII. It is a far cry from another poem Wyatt may have written about Anne, when she and Henry were on their way to Calais in November 1532:

The Lover that Fled Love now follows it with His Harm

Sometime I fled the fire, that me so brent,
  By sea, by land, by water, and by wind ;
And now the coals I follow that be quent,
From Dover to Calais, with willing mind.
Lo! how desire is both forth sprung, and spent!         
And he may see, that whilom was so blind,
And all his labour laughs he now to scorn,
Meashed in the briers, that erst was only torn.

It will never be known how deep Wyatt’s passion ran for Henry VIII’s second wife, or if the volume of poems allegedly about her is correct. What is shown by these two poems of Wyatt’s are the feelings of emotional loss and anger at Anne’s perceived change of heart away from Wyatt. But did Anne ever really have a choice?

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You Might Also Like

  1. The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: First Poem
  2. The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: Second Poem
  3. The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Infatuation
  4. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII: The Last Love Letter
  5. Dashing through the Snow: Dangers of Alcohol Consumption in Reformation-Era Augsburg

Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Wyatt, Sir Thomas. “Ye Old Mule.”     Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  2. Wyatt, Sir Thomas. “The Lover that Fled Love.”     Retrieved 9 May 2019.

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