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Short poem

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

Unstable Dream

              1   Unstable dream, according to the place,
              2Be steadfast once, or else at least be true.
              3By tasted sweetness make me not to rue
              4The sudden loss of thy false feignèd grace.
              5By good respect in such a dangerous case
              6Thou broughtest not her into this tossing mew
              7But madest my sprite live, my care to renew,
              8My body in tempest her succour to embrace.
              9The body dead, the sprite had his desire,
            10Painless was th'one, th'other in delight.
            11Why then, alas, did it not keep it right,
            12Returning, to leap into the fire?
            13     And where it was at wish, it could not remain,
            14     Such mocks of dreams they turn to deadly pain.


1] according to: suitable to, consonant with (the "tossing mew").

2] tasted sweetness: the spirit's "delight"(10) in enjoying the lady's love in the dream.

4] feignèd: "feigned" in the MS.

5] dangerous case: circumstances in which a lady might lose her chaste reputation. The dream did not transport the lady herself into the bed or "mew" (6).

6] mew: literally a cage for hawks, here used in the sense of place of retirement, such asa bed or the poet's dreaming imagination.

7] sprite: spirit.
care: trouble, pain.

8] My body in tempest her succour to embrace: the dream put his body in a storm (of desire) to embrace her help (parallel to line 7, in which the dream caused his spirit to come alive).

11] did it not keep it right: did the spirit not maintain the delight.

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. 54; cf. Richard Harrier, Canon (1975): 180.
First publication date: 1557
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott, Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RP 1935: I.78 (N. J. Endicott); RPO 1996 (IL).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/1

Form: sonnet
Rhyme: abbaabbacddcee

Other poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt