Last Updated 22 Dec 2022

Noli Me Tangere That The Subject of His Poem is in the Possession of a Higher Power

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The advent of the Petrarchan sonnet introduced a new era of poetic form that would take Europe by storm. Extended metaphors used to express new ideas and concepts about relationships were often characteristic of sonnets, Sir Thomas Wyatt is given much credit for bringing the sonnet to England, so it serves to say that his poetry should be very similar. Such is not true, however, as Wyatt often takes a tone of contempt or bitterness, in sharp contrast with Petrarch's softer sentiment. ln “Whoso list to hunt”, Wyatt uses a conceit based on hunting to complain to his peers about his lack of success in courtship, Hunting a female deer seems to be the extent of the poem's narrative and up until the last four lines of the sonnet not much evidence is given otherwise. Without background information on Sir Wyatt, a reader of "Whoso list to hunt" may simply assume it to be a straightforward piece of writing. Wyatt, an aristocratic courtier, wrote poems as a hobby, as did his noble compatriots.

They often shared poems about the exploits of romance, but this fact alone is not enough to draw a conclusion about the subject of this poem in particulart Suspicious are aroused by the claim in line ten: that any other prospective hunter would “spend his time in vain", were he to attempt pursuit of this particular deer. That even the most skilled hunter could not catch this prey is a very significant assumption to make of a deer, Casting aside any doubt that the hind could be caught, Wyatt’s vivid metaphor on line eight compares the hunt to the impossibility of holding the wind in a net. As catching the female deer is impossible for all including Wyatt, he casts the blame away from himself and onto the deer. The last four lines are the most significant to the understanding of the poem.

“Noli me tangere", in line 13, is an allusion to the deer of Caesar, implying that the subject of his poem is under the ownership of a higher power, This places his would be prey far from his reach, while implicitly suggesting the subject of the poem for his audience to guess, Wyatt, through allusion, says just enough without saying too much. Implying that he has had some kind of relationship with the King's wife (Wyatt's close friends would have heard rumors of this) was grounds enough for execution in the court of Henry VIII. Taking discretion and carefully using literary tools in poems such as this may have played in role in Wyatt’s ability to survive his stay in the Tower of London. Ambiguity surrounding the identity of the deer comes in part from the lack of description given of her.

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In the sestet, Wyatt switches focus from himself to his prey. A reader learns of the deer's collar, but "wild for to hold, though I seem tame" (14) are the only real descriptors to be found. The implicit connotation of hold, in particular, provokes the idea of some type of close interaction between the speaker and the hind, It is clear from the preceding thirteen lines that whatever type of holding was done, its result was not favorable for Wyatt. Wyatt's sonnet focuses more on the failed act of hunting, rather than the Petrarchan passive admiration of the original poem. He is his own central character, as evidenced by pervasive use of I and me throughout the poem This focus on the himself and the hind's relationship with him are essential for the conceit to function as a metaphor for a private relationship, He shares with his comrades of his failed attempts at courtship, while maintaining poetic distance from the scandal of a presumed affair with Anne Boleyn.

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