illustrated portrait of Anne Boleyn, the subject of Wyatt's poem

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What is the significance of the last line in Thomas Wyatt's “Whoso List to Hunt”?

Quick answer:

The last line of Thomas Wyatt's “Whoso List to Hunt” is part of a sign around the “deer's” neck in this expended metaphor of a hunt that is really unrequited love. The deer, like the woman it symbolizes, appears tame but is really wild and unable to be caught and held. The speaker, therefore, will give up his chase.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his poem “Whoso List to Hunt,” Thomas Wyatt uses the extended metaphor of the hunt for an illusive deer to speak about unrequited love. The deer stands for a woman who has rejected the speaker's overtures and has fled from his love. The speaker tells his hearers that if anyone else would like to “hunt,” he knows where this “deer” is, but he is too weary to pursue her any longer.

The speaker still cannot help thinking about this lovely creature, but she continues to flee from him, and he is now fainting and exhausted as he tries to follow. Therefore, he decides that he will “leave off” his pursuit. He feels as though he has been trying to hold the wind in a net.

The speaker also warns others who might want to hunt this deer that they may be spending their “time in vain” if they do so. This “deer” might as well be wearing a sign around her neck with a message in plain letters: Noli me tangere. Do not wish to touch me. This deer belongs to another, and she is too “wild” to hold even though she seems tame.

This last line gets to the heart of the speaker's difficulty with this “deer” and with his unwilling beloved. She seems “tame,” approachable and desirable. She seems to give signals, perhaps, that she is open to love. But such is not true. She is really too wild to catch and keep, and she admits such herself. Appearances and reality do not match, and the speaker, therefore, must give up his hunt.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial