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

by Heather R. Darsie

After Anne Boleyn’s startling arrest on 2 May 1536, several other men accused of being her accomplices in treasonous adultery were arrested. Sir Thomas Wyatt himself was arrested, but later released without charges. While he was in the Tower, it is traditionally thought that Wyatt wrote the following poem:

Believed to be a late 16th century copy of a portrait of Anne Boleyn from c. 1533-1536, via WikiMedia Commons.

Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me intimici me (Innocence, truth, Wyatt, Faith, My Enemies have Surrounded Me)

Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.**

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate;
The fall is grievous from aloft,
And sure, circa Regna tonat.

These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

The Bell Tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I lean out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yern [eager],
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

** This is commonly interpreted as, “Around the throne the thunder rolls,” but could also be interpreted as, “Around the kingdom, thunder” or, “thunder around the kingdom.”

After the executions of George Boleyn and Anne Boleyn, amongst others, Wyatt wrote this mournful poem:

In Mourning Wise Since Daily I Increase

In Mourning wise since daily I increase,
Thus should I cloak the cause of all my grief;
So pensive mind with tongue to hold his peace’
My reason sayeth there can be no relief:
Wherefore give ear, I humbly you require,
The affect to know that thus doth make me moan.
The cause is great of all my doleful cheer
For those that were, and now be dead and gone.
What thought to death desert be now their call.
As by their faults it doth appear right plain?
Of force I must lament that such a fall should light on those so wealthily did reign,
Though some perchance will say, of cruel heart,
A traitor’s death why should we thus bemoan?
But I alas, set this offence apart,
Must needs bewail the death of some be gone.

As for them all I do not thus lament,
But as of right my reason doth me bind;
But as the most doth all their deaths repent,
Even so do I by force of mourning mind.
Some say, ‘Rochford, haddest thou been not so proud,
For thy great wit each man would thee bemoan,
Since as it is so, many cry aloud
It is great loss that thou art dead and gone.’

Ah! Norris, Norris, my tears begin to run
To think what hap did thee so lead or guide
Whereby thou hast both thee and thine undone
That is bewailed in court of every side;
In place also where thou hast never been
Both man and child doth piteously thee moan.
They say, ‘Alas, thou art far overseen
By thine offences to be thus deat and gone.’

Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou diddest speak with tongue,
So well esteemed with each where thou diddest fare.
And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind doth thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep that thou are dead and gone.

Brereton farewell, as one that least I knew.
Great was thy love with divers as I hear,
But common voice doth not so sore thee rue
As other twain that doth before appear;
But yet no doubt but they friends thee lament
And other hear their piteous cry and moan.
So doth eah heart for thee likewise relent
That thou givest cause thus to be dead and gone.

Ah! Mark, what moan should I for thee make more,
Since that thy death thou hast deserved best,
Save only that mine eye is forced sore
With piteous plaint to moan thee with the rest?
A time thou haddest above thy poor degree,
The fall whereof thy friends may well bemoan:
A rotten twig upon so high a tree
Hath slipped thy hold, and thou art dead and gone.

And thus farewell each one in hearty wise!
The axe is home, your heads be in the street;
The trickling tears doth fall so from my eyes
I scarce may write, my paper is so wet.
But what can hope when death hath played his part,
Though nature’s course will thus lament and moan?
Leave sobs therefore, and every Christian heart
Pray for the souls of those be dead and gone.

Powerful words, and Wyatt’s shock and grief are palpable.

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You Might Also Like

  1. The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: First Poem
  2. The Poetry of Anne Boleyn: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Infatuation
  3. Phoenix Birth: Jane Seymour and the Importance of Death and Birth in Tudor England
  4. Sorrow in the City: Reactions to the End of an Age

 

Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Wyatt, Sir Thomas. “Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me intimici me.” 
  2. Wyatt, Sir Thomas. “In Mourning Wise Since Daily I Increase.”
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