In "So Cruel Prison," Henry Howard begins by lamenting his imprisonment at Windsor, in the very castle where he used to play as a child and where he spent his formative years as a young man. Howard was intimately connected to the royal family and was the childhood friend of Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, to whom he alludes throughout the poem. The principal subject is Howard's memory of his life at Windsor, spent in dancing, pursuing the ladies of the court, hunting, and sporting contests. All these things he did in the company of FitzRoy, but FitzRoy is now dead, having succumbed to tuberculosis soon after his seventeenth birthday. This "greater grief," Howard says, at the end of the poem banishes the sorrow of his imprisonment, which does not seem to have been particularly serious or long-lasting. The poem, therefore, is primarily an elegy for FitzRoy and for the poet's lost youth and would be much the same if Howard had not been in prison when he wrote it.
Sir Thomas Wyatt was a friend and fellow courtier of Howard's and was also under a fairly mild form of house arrest when he wrote "Mine own John Poynz." One of the most important differences between this poem and Howard's is that it is a translation, albeit a loose one which Wyatt adapts to his own circumstances, of a satire by Luigi Alamanni. The satirical element consists of Wyatt's description of life at court, referring to all the corrupt behavior in which the poet can no longer indulge. The tone of the poem, therefore, is quite different from Howard's, as one would expect a satire to differ from an elegy. Whereas Howard used to enjoy the dissolute lifestyle of the court, Wyatt writes as an outsider (albeit a temporary one), condemning what he remembers.