The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Composed of five stanzas with seven lines each, “It was my choice, it was no chance” is one of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poems that was probably written as a song to be accompanied by lute. In many ways a companion piece to the more familiar song “Blame not my lute,” “It was my choice, it was no chance” plays on the conventional themes of early Renaissance poetry in England. The persona, a young lover wooing a reluctant mistress, faces the specter of rejection. He carries out his attempts to persuade her to favor his suit with varying degrees of logic and fancy.

In the traditional scenario, the lover usually sees his mistress as a cruel temptress who simultaneously lures and ignores her courtier despite the fact that she has no intentions of returning his affections; furthermore, any dalliance in which she might engage with him will be fraught with inconstancy and infidelity. Wyatt supplies a twist on the usual theme, however, by having fate, rather than the woman herself, present the only real possibility of rejecting his love and, even more significantly, by seeing truth and trust as the only way to achieve a lasting love. In this way, the persona, though he affirms the role of the mistress in his unrequited bondage, softens the “attack” on the mistress and thereby places her at a disadvantage by denying her the possibility of a defensive reaction.

The poem begins with the persona’s admission that he has willingly given his...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Composed of plain words and no visual imagery, “It was my choice, it was no chance” definitely fits C. S. Lewis’s often quoted description of Wyatt’s poetry as “lean and sinewy.” While the poem does not contain sensuous imagery, Wyatt does not altogether abandon conventional poetic technique in the poem. He relies on metaphor to carry much of its meaning. The pervasive metaphor of the poem turns on the idea of an imprisoned, “bound” lover who seeks justice: the acceptance of his love that has patiently endured bondage. Wyatt continues this legal metaphor in the third stanza when he speaks of the lover who, having trusted chance, now “may well go sue/ Uncertain hope for his redress” or perhaps “mayst appeal for” his “release/ To fantasy.” A brief metaphor, connected with the binding of the lover but unrelated to the legal metaphor, is the slipknot of fanciful love found only in stanza 4. Other words in the poem, such as “choice,” “just,” “sufferance,” “right or might,” “power,” “abuse,” “vaileth,” and “prevail,” though they are not specifically connected to the metaphor, serve to reinforce the atmosphere of litigation and deliberation. Even the final search for truth echoes the legal terms, since the purpose of every trial supposedly is to find the truth. Here, the truth is what ultimately will free the imprisoned lover. This legal metaphor is particularly apt for a poet who uses logic and rhetorical methods...

(The entire section is 571 words.)