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The first line of an erotic poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), one of Anne Boleyn’s alleged lovers – the poem was published after his death:

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle tame and meek
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
And therewithal sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, Dear heart, how like you this?
It was no dream, I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindely am served,
I fain would know what she hath deserved.

[Edit: This is Wyatt’s MS version. I originally posted the revised version by Richard Tottel (1557).]

Kindely means appropriately. Sarcasm.

Some speculate that the poem relates to an affair with Anne. Two other poems by Wyatt are thought to be about her – Whoso List to Hunt (noli me tangere!) and the veeery bitter Ye Olde Mule.

In The White Goddess Robert Graves cited this composition as a perfect example of the poet being consumed by the muse of the ancient triple goddess. Really?

Lots of theories, but best to absorb the oddly disturbing mood and imagery just by reading.

To me, the emotions are tricky, mixing resentment (or maybe weariness) at sexual rejection with regret at the passing of a powerful experience.

There’s an interesting appreciation of the poem at John Fraser’s website (scroll down about 75%). And the wiki page for The Tudors TV series has a page devoted to Wyatt’s work, with some set to music.

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