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Short poem

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1517?-1547)

Of the Death of Sir T. W. The Elder

              1Wyatt resteth here, that quick could never rest;
              2Whose heavenly gifts increased by disdain,
              3And virtue sank the deeper in his breast;
              4Such profit he by envy could obtain.

              5A head where wisdom mysteries did frame,
              6Whose hammers beat still in that lively brain
              7As on a stithy where that some work of fame
              8Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain's gain.

              9A visage stern and mild, where both did grow,
            10Vice to contemn, in virtue to rejoice;
            11Amid great storms, whom grace assured so
            12To live upright and smile at fortune's choice.

            13A hand that taught what might be said in rhyme;
            14That reft Chaucer the glory of his wit:
            15A mark, the which (unparfited, for time)
            16Some may approach, but never none shall hit.

            17A tongue that served in foreign realms his king;
            18Whose courteous talk to virtue did enflame
            19Each noble heart; a worthy guide to bring
            20Our English youth by travail unto fame.

            21An eye whose judgment none affect could blind,
            22Friends to allure, and foes to reconcile;
            23Whose piercing look did represent a mind
            24With virtue fraught, reposed, void of guile.

            25A heart where dread was never so impress'd,
            26To hide the thought that might the truth advance;
            27In neither fortune loft, nor yet repress'd,
            28To swell in wealth, or yield unto mischance.

            29A valiant corps, where force and beauty met;
            30Happy, alas, too happy, but for foes!
            31Lived, and ran the race, that Nature set:
            32Of manhood's shape, where she the mould did lose.

            33But to the heavens that simple soul is fled,
            34Which left with such as covet Christ to know
            35Witness of faith that never shall be dead,
            36Sent for our health, but not received so.
            37Thus, for our guilt, this jewel have we lost;
            38The earth his bones, the heavens possess his ghost.


1] Sir Thomas Wyatt served Henry VIII as ambassador to the Emperor from 1537 to 1540. On the execution of Cromwell (1540) he was imprisoned in the Tower on a charge of treason preferred by his enemies, Bonner and Heynes, but he cleared himself, and died in the favour of the king, October 11, 1542. The following words from George Puttenham's Art of English Poesie (1589) are more descriptive of Wyatt than of Surrey: "Having travelled to Italy, and there tasted the sweet and stately measures and style of the Italian poesie, as novices newly crept out of the schools of Dante, Arioste, and Petrarch, they greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie from that it had been before, and for that cause may justly be said the first reformers of our English metre and style."

7] stithy: Anvil.

14] reft. Deprived ... of. Wyatt was the first to surpass Chaucer.

15] unparfited. Unperfected.
affect. Passion.

27] loft. Elated.

34-35] Perhaps an allusion to Wyatt's translation of the seven Penitential Psalms.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: An Excellent Epitaffe of syr Thomas wyat, with two other dytties (J. Herforde for R. Toye, 1545?). STC 26053.5.
First publication date: 1545
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP 1.88.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/29

Composition date: 1542
Rhyme: abab ... ababcc

Other poems by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey