Many poems written by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt are taken from translations, Do the writers speak in their own voice?Additionally, are both writers successful in...

Many poems written by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt are taken from translations, Do the writers speak in their own voice?

Additionally, are both writers successful in conveying orginality and sincerity?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Many poems by both Wyatt and Surrey are translations from the works of the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch). Wyatt and Surrey would be important poets in the history of English literature if they had done nothing else than introduce Petrarch to English readers.

While it is easy to assume that because they translated from Petrarch they were not "original" writers, this is not the case. No translation can be utterly faithful to the original work it translates. Therefore all translation involves some inevitable degree of originality.

Compare and contrast, for intance, Wyatt's translation of poem 140 from Petrarch's collection of poems known as the Rime sparse with Howard's translation of the very same poem. Wyatt's translation begins with the line "The long love that in my thought doth harbor"; Howard's translation of the same poem begins with the line "Love, that doth reign and live within my thought."

Although the two poems have basically the same "meaning," each is highly distinctive in style. In that sense, both Wyatt and Howard do in fact speak in their own individual voices as poets.

However, it is important to stress that the speakers in these poems should not necessarily be identified with Wyatt and Howard themselves.  In other words, the speakers of the poems are dramatic creations. Their ideas and claims are probably meant to be read ironically.  Wyatt and Surrey, following Petrarch, seem to have created fictional speakers for their poems -- speakers whom neither Petrarch, Wyatt, nor Surrey took seriously. Part of the fun of these poems derives from the ways the poets use irony to mock the speakers of their poems.

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