“Divers Doth Use” is a sonnet in the Italian, or Petrarchan, form, rhymed abbaabba, cddcee, and thus structured as an octave and a sestet, rather than in the four quatrains of the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet. As in many of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s shorter lyrics, the subject here is the ending of romantic relationships in the context of a sophisticated Renaissance court whose sexual mores are promiscuous and whose social manners are often modeled after those found in poetry. The first-person voice in the poem, whether Wyatt’s or that of an imaginary persona, speaks of typical male responses to female infidelity and offers, in contrast to those responses, his own attitude, which, he claims, is stalwart and stoic.
The octave opens with the speaker deriding diverse men whom he either knows firsthand or has heard about who behave childishly and poetically in the face of their beloveds’ unfaithfulness: men who weep and moan endlessly—“never for to lin [cease]” (line 3)—not in order to effect any change in their situations but, paradoxically, in order to alleviate their woe. In other words, they weep to appease their weeping: not a particularly mature or effective response. Such ostentatious expressions of woe are mere affectations.
There are other men, the poem continues, who behave viciously, by insulting their former lovers as false (that is, as promiscuous), but then quickly redirect their passions and love poems to other women. Men who react in this way simply testify to the inconstancy of their own affections and prove themselves to be “false.”
At line 9, the formal turn—the point in a sonnet that marks the beginning of an antithesis or redirection of the poem’s focus—the speaker turns attention from the men described above to himself and his own reaction to the infidelity of his beloved. Although he too has fallen out of favor with his woman, he will not, he says, weep unduly over her infidelity or insult her as false, though false she was. Rather, he refuses to take it personally and attributes the situation to the impersonal forces of chance and change.
Finally, he accepts the woman’s infidelity as natural (“of kind,” line 13) and neither faults the individual woman nor loses his own composure. The failure of the relationship stems from nothing less than female psychology in general; often, he says, the only thing that pleases women is change itself.
Forms and Devices
The language of the poem is strikingly straightforward. The meter, while fairly regular iambic pentameter, creates a rhythm that seems conversational and familiar rather than formal. The speaker seems to talk to his audience directly, as if to an intimate acquaintance. This sense of familiarity, of ordinary talk, comes also from the poem’s relative lack of metaphoric imagery.
The only suggestion of metaphor in the poem comes in line 12, with...
(The entire section is 711 words.)