Sir Thomas Wyatt

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What was Thomas Wyatt's relationship to the Petrarchan convention?

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While Wyatt is known as a translator of Petrarch, his translations can be considered original poems in their own right. Wyatt made significant changes to the structure and tone of the Petrarchan originals.

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Wyatt was the first translator of Petrarch into English. As such, his work had a significant impact on the development of the sonnet in English literature. While Wyatt is often thought of as an imitator of Petrarch, the relationship of his poetry to their Italian originals is complex. This is in keeping with Renaissance notions of imitation, in that the imitation should have a relation to the original but also allow the imitator creative freedom. In many cases, it can be argued that Wyatt's translations are original poems in their own right.

Wyatt's poetry differs from Petrarch in tone. Where Petrarch is mannered, Wyatt is more emotional, and his poetry seems more personal and realistic. For instance, Wyatt's "O goodely Hand" transforms Petrarch's original poem, about the beauty of a lady's hand, from a generalized meditation on beauty, to a specific and personal expression of desire, both to see the lady's ungloved hand, and to have her love. Unlike Petrarch, who sees love as a mediating force subservient to the higher laws of religion, Wyatt focuses on the personal; as Reed Dasenbrock puts it, Wyatt's poem is about how "the poet is dissatisfied with the treatment he is getting from her and his poem is a complaint about it."

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