In mourning wise since daily I increase Analysis

Sir Thomas Wyatt

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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The poetic form for “In mourning wise” is that of the ballad, which usually tells a story but, in this case, presents a situation and comments upon it. The traditional ballad is typically presented in a four-line stanza, rhyming abab. Wyatt combines two of these stanzas into a single eight-line stanza. The ballad’s relatively casual, informal style, which allows the poet to address both the participants in the poem and the reader directly, is especially suitable for the meaning and purpose of “In mourning wise.”

The underlying logical scheme for “In mourning wise” is that of classical rhetoric. Specifically, Wyatt has taken the rhetorical tradition of addressing absent individuals as if they were actually present. In this case, these individuals are the reader, to whom Wyatt speaks in the opening and closing of the poem, and the guilty dead, each of whom he addresses in turn. This sort of formal patterning was a tradition from the classical world, and educated courtiers such as Wyatt and his readers would have been intimately familiar with it. It permits him to go from a specific personal and historic situation (the execution of five men while he himself was imprisoned in the Tower of London) to a larger, more embracing consideration: how the death of any human being deprives the world of unique talents and personalities and so is a cause for sorrow.

Over this logical framework, the poet has fashioned a linguistic...

(The entire section is 538 words.)