Sir Thomas Wyatt

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Please provide an analysis of Sir Thomas Wyatt's poem "They flee from me that sometime did me seek."

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This is one of the most famous of all of Wyatt’s poems. The speaker of the poem is a man who is now forsaken by the women who, at one time, used to seek him out, presumably for erotic encounters. In this poem, a male gets to experience how it feels to be judged as women are often judged – in terms of youth, appearance, and erotic allure. At one time the man was a desirable object of attention, but now that he has aged, women have moved on to greener pastures.

The first four words of the poem – “They flee from me” – express the speaker’s shock and surprise at this development. He cannot believe that he is no longer physically attractive, especially since, in the past, women used to seek him out, entering his bedchamber with naked feet. He compares these women to animals who were once “gentle, tame, and meek” (3) but who now are “wild” (4). At one time he felt that he could easily control these women, who readily submitted themselves to him. Now, however, “they range, / Busily seeking with a continual change” (6-7).  This theme of “continual change” – otherwise known as “mutability” – is one of the most prominent themes of much medieval and Renaissance literature. Christians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were taught that the only true source of stability in life was God. To put one’s trust in anyone or anything else was considered a major error that would inevitably lead to disappointment and disillusionment. The speaker of this poem is now learning that he cannot depend on his own flesh to remain attractive, and that he cannot depend on women to continue to find him...

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