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Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

Madam, withouten many Words


              1Madam, withouten many words
              2    Once I am sure ye will or no ...
              3And if ye will, then leave your bourds
              4    And use your wit and show it so,
              5And with a beck ye shall me call;
              6    And if of one that burneth alway
              7Ye have any pity at all,
              8    Answer him fair with & {.} or nay.
              9If it be &, {.} I shall be fain;
            10    If it be nay, friends as before;
            11Ye shall another man obtain,
            12    And I mine own and yours no more.

Notes

1] The source of the poem is a madrigal by Dragonetto Bonifacio (see Muir and Thomson, 297; Joel Newman, RN 10 [1957]: 13-15)

Madonna non so dir tante parole
o uoi uolet' o no se uoi uolete
oprat' al gran bisogn' il uostro senno
che uoi saret' intesa per un cenno
& se d' un che semp' arde al fin ui duole
un bel si un bel no mi rispondete
se sar' un si un si scriuero 'n rima
se sar' un no amici come prima
uoi trouerret' un' altr' amante & io
Non potend' esser uostro sar mio
cited from Le Dotte, et Eccellente Compositioni de i Madrigalli ... a Cinque Voci (1549): 16.

"To a lady to answer directly with yea or nay" (Tottel's title).

Lines 1-2: "Madam, (I will be) brief once I know whether or not you will (assent to my offer, or make up your mind)": Wyatt promises action, not words.

Withouten: without

3] bourds: jests, mockery.

5] beck: nod, gesture.

8] & {.}: an ampersand followed by a raised period (Egerton MS), Wyatt's way of representing a non-verbal nod or gesture ("beck") meaning "yes."

9] fain: glad.

12] mine own: my own man, obligated to no one.

An "Answer" by a brisk lady appears in the Egerton MS but is evidently not by Wyatt:

Of few words, sir, you seem to be;
And where I doubted what I would do
Your quick request hath caused me
Quickly to tell you what you shall trust to,
For he that will be called with a beck
Makes haste suit on light desire,
Is ever ready to the check,
And burneth in no wasting fire.
Therefore, whether you be lief or loath
And whether it give you light or sore,
I am at a point I have made an oath:
Content you with nay, for you get no more.


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: British Library Egerton MS. 2711, fol. 24v; cf. Richard Harrier, Canon (1975): 128-29.
First publication date: 1557
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger, Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RP 1963: I.7; RPO 1994.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/1

Rhyme: ababcdcdefef


Other poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt