Who might "list to hunt"? Who is the poet addressing in this poem?

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angelacress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem can be viewed as directly allegorical or an extended metaphor. In either case, the hunter, or "Whoso List to Hunt," might be any man who is courting a woman, or pursuing a romantic relationship with a woman who is difficult to attain, or the players may have been Wyatt, Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII.

The woman is compared to a wild deer who continuously out-paces her pursuer, while the man is compared to a hunter who is growing more and more exhausted with the chase. Despite his exhaustion, however, the man presses onward and continues his pursuit, declaring, "Fainting, I follow." Ultimately, however, the hunter must abandon his pursuit because he finds that the deer, or woman, is the property of another man (she bears a collar that says, in Latin, "Touch me not"). Despite that she has been claimed by another man, the author gives the deer a distinct personality, as she tells him at the end that she cannot really be tamed because she is wild, "And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."

Some scholars believe this poem may have been a direct allegory for Henry the VIII's relationship with Anne Boleyn. Wyatt may have been in love with Anne Boleyn as well, a wild and flamboyant spirit, but he had to abandon his pursuit of her when King Henry VIII claimed her as his own.