Monday, June 22, 2015

I Find No Peace - Sir Thomas Wyatt

I find no peace, and all my war is done.
I fear and hope. I burn and freeze like ice.
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have, and all the world I season.
That loseth nor locketh holdeth me in prison
And holdeth me not - yet I can scape no wise -
Nor letteth me live nor die at my device,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
Without eyen I see, and without tongue I plain.
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health.
I love another, and thus I hate myself.
I feed me in sorrow and laugh in all my pain;
Likewise displeaseth me both life and death,
And my delight is causer of this strife.

Sir Thomas Wyatt was an ambassador to Italy from England under King Henry VIII, and today is widely believed to have been the lover of Anne Boleyn.  Wyatt's ride travels meant he was widely read, and he was one of the first to adapt the sonnet to English from Italian.  While the English he uses is somewhat archaic here, it's still largely understandable to our modern "eyen" and its sense of self-imprisonment and conflict due to love are as relevant as ever.

Wyatt expresses his great frustration at love through paradox, which I imagine is how many of us experience love.  He sees without eyes, he speaks without tongues, he burns and freezes.  He soars high without rising with the wind and is held captive by all and no chains and fetters all at once.  All of this because "my delight is causer of this strife."  That which brings him joy, his love, also causes him this pain, and so paradox is the only vehicle through which he can express it.

"I love another and thus I hate myself" might be among the most perfect descriptions I've yet heard for being in love.  Loving another is the knowledge that you are not whole.  It is allowing yourself to be hurt as deeply as you can imagine, and knowing that another is entrusting you with that same power.  If it is a frustrated love, as it seems to be in this poem, it would indeed rob you of all peace.  That line cuts through the rest of the poem like a knife, and I think it will stick with me a long time.

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