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Short poem

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

Mine own John Poynz

              1Mine own John Poynz, since ye delight to know
              2The cause why that homeward I me draw,
              3And flee the press of courts, whereso they go,
              4Rather than to live thrall under the awe
              5Of lordly looks, wrappèd within my cloak,
              6To will and lust learning to set a law:
              7It is not for because I scorn or mock
              8The power of them, to whom fortune hath lent
              9Charge over us, of right, to strike the stroke.
            10But true it is that I have always meant
            11Less to esteem them than the common sort,
            12Of outward things that judge in their intent
            13Without regard what doth inward resort.
            14I grant sometime that of glory the fire
            15Doth twyche my heart. Me list not to report
            16Blame by honour, and honour to desire.
            17But how may I this honour now attain,
            18That cannot dye the colour black a liar?
            19My Poynz, I cannot from me tune to feign,
            20To cloak the truth for praise without desert
            21Of them that list all vice for to retain.
            22I cannot honour them that sets their part
            23With Venus and Bacchus all their life long;
            24Nor hold my peace of them although I smart.
            25I cannot crouch nor kneel to do so great a wrong,
            26To worship them, like God on earth alone,
            27That are as wolves these sely lambs among.
            28I cannot with my word complain and moan,
            29And suffer nought, nor smart without complaint,
            30Nor turn the word that from my mouth is gone.
            31I cannot speak and look like a saint,
            32Use willes for wit, and make deceit a pleasure,
            33And call craft counsel, for profit still to paint.
            34I cannot wrest the law to fill the coffer
            35With innocent blood to feed myself fat,
            36And do most hurt where most help I offer.
            37I am not he that can allow the state
            38Of him Caesar, and damn Cato to die,
            39That with his death did scape out of the gate
            40From Caesar's hands (if Livy do not lie)
            41And would not live where liberty was lost;
            42So did his heart the common weal apply.
            43I am not he such eloquence to boast
            44To make the crow singing as the swan;
            45Nor call the liond of cowardes beasts the most
            46That cannot take a mouse as the cat can;
            47And he that dieth for hunger of the gold
            48Call him Alexander; and say that Pan
            49Passeth Apollo in music many fold;
            50Praise Sir Thopias for a noble tale,
            51And scorn the story that the Knight told;
            52Praise him for counsel that is drunk of ale;
            53Grin when he laugheth that beareth all the sway,
            54Frown when he frowneth and groan when is pale;
            55On others' lust to hang both night and day:
            56None of these points would ever frame in me.
            57My wit is nought--I cannot learn the way.
            58And much the less of things that greater be,
            59That asken help of colours of device
            60To join the mean with each extremity,
            61With the nearest virtue to cloak alway the vice;
            62And as to purpose, likewise it shall fall
            63To press the virtue that it may not rise;
            64As drunkenness good fellowship to call;
            65The friendly foe with his double face
            66Say he is gentle and courteous therewithal;
            67And say that favel hath a goodly grace
            68In eloquence; and cruelty to name
            69Zeal of justice and change in time and place;
            70And he that suffer'th offence without blame
            71Call him pitiful; and him true and plain
            72That raileth reckless to every man's shame.
            73Say he is rude that cannot lie and feign;
            74The lecher a lover; and tyranny
            75To be the right of a prince's reign.
            76I cannot, I; no, no, it will not be!
            77This is the cause that I could never yet
            78Hang on their sleeves that way, as thou mayst see,
            79A chip of chance more than a pound of wit.
            80This maketh me at home to hunt and to hawk,
            81And in foul weather at my book to sit;
            82In frost and snow then with my bow to stalk;
            83No man doth mark whereso I ride or go:
            84In lusty leas at liberty I walk.
            85And of these news I feel nor weal nor woe,
            86Save that a clog doth hang yet at my heel.
            87No force for that, for it is ordered so,
            88That I may leap both hedge and dyke full well.
            89I am not now in France to judge the wine,
            90With saffry sauce the delicates to feel;
            91Nor yet in Spain, where one must him incline
            92Rather than to be, outwardly to seem:
            93I meddle not with wits that be so fine.
            94Nor Flanders' cheer letteth not my sight to deem
            95Of black and white; nor taketh my wit away
            96With beastliness; they beasts do so esteem.
            97Nor I am not where Christ is given in prey
            98For money, poison, and treason at Rome--
            99A common practice used night and day:
          100But here I am in Kent and Christendom
          101Among the Muses where I read and rhyme;
          102Where if thou list, my Poinz, for to come,
          103Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time.


1] Tottel entitles it "Of the courtiers life written to John Poins." Modelled on Luigi Alamanni's Tenth Satire (1532).
John Poynz. This courtier and scholarly friend and correspondent of Wyatt's came from Iron Acton, Gloucestershire. There is a portrait of him by Holbein.

3] press: crowd.
whereso they go: courts progressed with the king from place to place, mainly during the summer months.

5] wrappèd: wrapped in MS.

6] will and lust: wilfulness (or whim) and pleasure.

15] Me list not: I do not like.
twyche: so Egerton MS, either "twitch" or "touch."

16] by honour: concerning honour.

22] sets. Third person plural in -s, probably derived from Northern, is common in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English.

23] Venus: Goddess of Love.
Bacchus: God of wine.

24] smart: feel sharp pain.

27] sely: foolish, "silly," derived from OE "selig"=happy.

28-30] Lines missing from Devonshire and Egerton, and therefore taken from the Arundel Castle Harington MS.

38] Caesar: Gaius Julius Caesar (102/100-44 BC).
Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato, who committed suicide after the battle of Thapsus to avoid having to submit to Caesar's dictatorship.

40] Livy: Titus Livius Livy (59 BC-?17 AD), Roman historian.

42] common weal: the commonwealth, the state.

47] dieth. Pronounced as one syllable; MS. "dithe."

48] Alexander: the Great, 356-323 BC.
Pan: After Midas awarded the prize in a music contest between Pan and Apollo to Pan, Apollo changed Midas' ears to an ass's ears (Ovid, Metamorphoses, XI).

50] Sir Thopias . . . tale: told by Chaucer himself in The Canterbury Tales; burlesque and incomplete because interrupted and rejected by the Host.

51] the story that the Knight told: Chaucer's Knight's tale of the love of Palamon and Arcite for Emily.

56] frame in: be conceived and shaped by.

59] colours of device: rhetorical devices, possibly deliberate lies.

62] as to purpose: as it may suit the occasion.

67] favel: deceiving flattery.

84] In lusty leas: pleasant countryside, possibly also restrained only by his wishes.

85] these news: i.e, those that Poins has been sending him from the court.

86] clog: a block chained to his leg ... a reference to Wyatt's being in custody (he was on parole but not permitted to leave the estate).

87] No force: it does not matter.

88] dyke: ditch.

89] France. Wyatt resided at Calais in 1529 and had permission to export French wine. Perhaps an echo of Chaucer's Pardoner.

90] saffry: savoury.

91] Spain. Wyatt visited Spain, as Henry VIII's ambassador, a few months after writing these lines.

94] letteth: prevents.

96] they esteem beasts so highly that they make beasts of themselves.

97-98] where Christ is given in prey / For money, poison, and treason at Rome.

100] Kent:

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: lines 1-51 from British Library Additional MS 17492 (Devonshire MS); cf. Collected Poems, ed. Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson (Liverpool University Press, 1969); the rest from British Library Egerton MS.
First publication date: 1557
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger, Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RP 1963: I.5 (F. D. Hoeniger); RPO 1994 (IL).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/1

Composition date: 1536
Composition date note: Wyatt's poem was probably written in 1536, when he was for a short while exiled from the court and lived in his father's custody at Allington Castle in Kent.
Form: terza rima

Other poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt