Sir Thomas Wyatt Questions and Answers

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How might one interpret sonnet 10, "Some fowls there be that have so perfect sight," by Sir Thomas Wyatt?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Thomas Wyatt's sonnets express problems with love, and this one is no exception. The speaker first says there are three kinds of birds: those that see clearly by light of day, those that see well at night, and those who are attracted not to healthy light but to dangerous firelight. They want to "play" in it and find out it is not what they thought. In other words, they get burned.

The speaker likens himself to that third kind of fowl or bird, the one that likes to play with fire. The speaker can't not look at the beloved who is dangerous for him. His eyes are swollen with tears because of her—she has hurt him in some way—and yet, he ends the poem as follows:

My destiny to behold her doth me lead,
Yet do I know I run into the gleed.

A gleed is a fiery coal or ember. The speaker laments that although he is fated to be attracted to this woman, he knows she will hurt him just as touching a fiery coal would.

Wyatt expresses a common theme of love: we are often attracted to people we know are bad us, yet we can't seem to resist their allure. Head and heart are at odds. We know, logically, that the beloved one will hurt us, but our emotions take over.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sonnet 10 by Sir Thomas Wyatt, “Some fowls there be that have so perfect sight,” is an extended metaphor in the tradition of the verse of courtly love. It is in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, consisting of an octave (2 open couplets) focussed on the vehicle of the metaphor (types of birds) and sestet, focussed on the tenor of the metaphor (the lover/narrator). The three types of birds are daylight birds, night birds, and birds who like moths seek out bright flame or light but are blinded by it. He compares himself to the third type, attracted to the woman he loves, but she causes him so much unhappiness that he is blinded by tears when he thinks of her.

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