Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384

“It was my choice, it was no chance” is a deceptively simple poem. Perhaps the only certainty about the poem is that it is about a man courting a woman who has not yet returned his advances. Whether the tone of the poem is playful, serious, or cynical, however, is open to debate. The picture the persona draws of the woman he loves is the merest outline. The reader knows that she has held his heart—whether she intended to do so or not is not made clear—for some time without either freeing it or accepting it. The picture the persona draws of himself is, likewise, superficial. Rather than plumbing the depths of his feelings, he makes a relatively objective case before the court of his love.

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The real difficulty in interpreting this poem comes with the fourth stanza, in which the persona admits that fantasy first caused him to love. The problem lies in his firm assertion that a love based on fantasy will end as quickly and easily as it began because it has “no faster knot.” From this realization, he moves to the further revelation that a love that maintains itself “by change” (a paradox in that maintenance and change are diametrically opposed) cannot endure and that only a love based on truth that leads to trust will triumph. The relationship of these statements to the opening situation is unclear: If he sees his love as based on fantasy (he makes this connection explicit through the use of the word “choice” in the first stanza and “choose” in the fourth), the reader must wonder why he persists in pressing for a love that he knows cannot last. On the other hand, he may see his love as having found a stronger foundation despite the fact that it was founded on such tenuous grounds.

Any interpretation of a Wyatt love poem must mention his purported relationship with Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. Certain aspects of the poem suggest, but certainly do not confirm, the possibility of such a connection. The references to “one happy hour” that can “prevail” more than “right or might,” the power that only “Fortune” has to quash his love, and the legal framing of the entire poem could conceivably allude to this liaison.

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