Thomas Wyatt writes this poem to express his ambivalent feelings about love. Love for him is a paradox, a state of being that is full of contradictions. Some of the contradictory emotions he has about love include the following: love fills him with both fear and hope. He compares love to a prison, but then notes that he stays in love's prison willingly. Love makes him want to die, and yet it makes him yearn to have good health. It makes him love another and hate himself. And yet, amid all this "strife," it is his "delight."
Wyatt describes the intense, wildly swinging emotions and moods that being in love can cause, trying to explain love's complexities. He wants his readers to know that love is both wonderful and torturous at the same time.
Because Wyatt doesn't specifically state the context of these emotional highs and lows, the poem makes it possible to apply them to a number of situations that people in love face, such as unrequited love, physical separation from a lover, or a lover who is unpredictable, sometimes hot and sometimes cold.