illustrated portrait of Anne Boleyn, the subject of Wyatt's poem

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

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How effective do you find the metaphor of the deer and the hunt in the poem? Is the metaphor retained till the end?

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The metaphor of the hunt allows Wyatt to show the futility of chasing after a woman when a more powerful person has claimed her. He has been hunting her like a wild animal, but she is "wild for to hold" only to him, having been made to "seem tame" by her relationship to the king. She wears a collar of diamonds, labeled like an animal's, that symbolizes her status of belonging to someone already, specifically someone rich and powerful who can provide the diamonds. Wyatt has been trying to hunt her in spite of this, but now he recognizes that there is no point in doing so. He declares that someone else may hunt her but that he himself is now "wearied" in the chase, an attempt as futile as to "seek to hold the wind" in a "net." He warns anyone else who wants to hunt her that he will "spend his time in vain." Although at the beginning of the poem, he seems to be recommending this "hind" as a target for the hunter, by the end he is discouraging anyone from hunting her because she has already been caught.

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The extended metaphor of the hunt is indeed an effective one when addressing the theme of the poem and the period in which it was written.

Wyatt was an integral part of the Tudor court, and as such was frequently to accompany the king on hunting trips. Both Henry VIII and Thomas Wyatt were dynamic, energetic and handsome men in their youth and as a result were well used to the pursuit of young women as well as young hinds.

The choice of metaphor enhances the relationship between the narrator and his audience. If we see that the poem was to be presented at court, as Wyatt often did, then the sonnet contains a clear message to his monarch that Wyatt renounces his pursuit of this current ‘hind’. History indicates that the ‘hind’ was representative of the young Anne Boleyn, who was believed to have been involved with Wyatt before becoming the wife of Henry VIII.

Further emphasis of the narrator’s renouncement of his pursuit is symbolised by the imagery of t golden collar which indicates the hind as the property of Caesar. By including this reference, Wyatt shows deference to his monarch and alludes to his greatness in the comparison with Julius Caesar.

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