"Whoso List to Hunt" is one of thirty sonnets written by Sir Thomas Wyatt. Although Wyatt never published his poems, several, including "Whoso List to Hunt," appeared in the 1557 edition of the printer Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey and other, more briefly referred to as Tottel's Miscellany.
"Whoso List to Hunt" is held to be Wyatt's imitation of "Rime 190," written by Petrarch, a fourteenth-century Italian poet and scholar. In "Whoso List to Hunt," Wyatt describes a hunt wherein a deer is pursued and ultimately owned by the royal who owns the land. Scholars generally believe that the poem is an allegory referring to Anne Boleyn's courtship by King Henry VIII, such that when Wyatt speaks of the deer as royal property not to be hunted by others, he is acknowledging that Anne has become the property of the King alone. Wyatt was said to have been interested in Anne—and may have been her lover—but would have withdrawn as a suitor after the King made clear his wish to claim her.
Wyatt introduced the sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a fixed format and rhyme scheme, to England. Despite not publishing his poetry, Wyatt would have made his poems readily available to others. During the Elizabethan period, poets passed their work around in aristocratic circles, in what has been described as a sort of game of one-upmanship: each poet's work inspired his readers to create something comparable or better. Wyatt chose the Petrarchan sonnet as his inspiration. The Petrarchan sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in which the first eight lines, the octave, present a problem, which is resolved by the final six lines, the sestet. Wyatt altered the Petrarchan formula, ending the sestet with two lines, a couplet, that rhyme. As such, he set a precedent for later poets, many of whom further altered the sonnet formula. Also, in focusing on a hunting allegory in "Whoso List to Hunt," Wyatt demonstrated that sonnets could explore more than unrequited love, on which Petrarch had focused. Wyatt's poem is frequently found in literature anthologies, as well as in several editions of his own poetry, including Sir Thomas Wyatt: Collected Poems (1975), edited by Joost Daalder.