Sir Thomas Wyatt

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What is the context of Wyatt's poem "The Lover Recounteth the Variable  Fancy of His Fickle Mistress"?

What is the context of Wyatt's poem "The Lover Recounteth the Variable  Fancy of His Fickle Mistress"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We don't know the exact circumstances alluded to in this particular poem, but we can offer a general context for Wyatt's poetry. He was a courtier to King Henry VIII of England in the first half of the sixteenth century. This means that he served the king and other powerful men in his court, such as Thomas Cromwell. He was close to power, didn't have to labor for living, and was deeply enmeshed in court politics and the courtly life of romantic intrigue, dances, masques, music, and poetry.

In this poem, the speaker expresses his disbelief at the inconstancy of a beloved, asking over and over " Is it possible?" He is reeling from the change in his loved one from kindness to cruelty. He wonders how she can "bring that low’st that was most aloft."

It is possible that the poem refers to his wife, from whom he separated after accusing her of adultery. It could also refer to Anne Boleyn, with whom he was rumored to have had an affair. But since we don't know, it is safest to assume it is a general commentary on the love intrigues and sudden betrayals frequent in a royal court.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The context of Wyatt's poem is that of a lover pondering the fickle nature of his mistress. The poem centers around one question: Is it possible? The poet then describes what it is that he is wondering could be possible.

Is it possible for someone to be seemingly madly in love, and then seem to despise the lover, only to swing back to being in love again?

In other words, it seems as if the speaker is dealing with his lady's mood swings:

Is it possible?
    Is it possible?
So cruel intent,
So hasty heat, and so soon spent,
From love to hate, and thence for to relent ?
Is it possible ?
    Is it possible?
That any may find,
Within one heart so diverse mind,
To change or turn as weather and wind,
Is it possible ?

His conclusion: Anything is possible!

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