The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“In mourning wise since daily I increase” is a ballad composed of eight stanzas, with each stanza consisting of two quatrains of generally regular iambic pentameter. Based on a historical incident at the court of the English monarch King Henry VIII, the poem is Sir Thomas Wyatt’s meditation on the execution of five men of the court for their alleged adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn.

According to Kenneth Muir’s Sir Thomas Wyatt, Life and Letters (1963), the five men addressed in the poem were executed on May 17, 1536, for improper sexual relations with Queen Anne. They were Lord Rochford, the queen’s brother, who was charged with incest; Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, and Sir William Bereton, three court officials charged with adultery with the queen; and Mark Smeaton, a court musician who appears to have confessed under torture and who may have implicated the four others.

The poem is divided into three sections: an opening of two stanzas that establishes the specific situation that has saddened the poet; a central portion of five stanzas in which the executed individuals are directly addressed by the poet, who comments on their virtues and weaknesses; and a concluding single stanza that again returns the poem to consider the general implications of this specific tragedy. Each of the people the poet addresses is given some touch of individuality, which, generally, is the immediate reason to mourn his loss. Rochford had...

(The entire section is 410 words.)