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‘Whoso list to hunt’ by Sir Thomas Wyatt is an extended metaphor which is all about a deer hunt in which a hind is being chased by several riders. In this the riders represent young men and the hind represents a woman, probably Anne Boleyn. The title is repeated in the very first line of the sonnet, ‘Whoso list to hunt,’ (whoever wants to pursuit) almost to make sure that you know exactly what the sonnet is going to be about.
It’s a statement/question which hooks the readers mind into wanting to know what the answer is going to be.
In the very first line Wyatt introduces the reader to a metaphor used for the woman and those who want her, ‘Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind.
‘ Here Wyatt is basically stating that whoever wants to hunt, I know where is an hind, (in western literature words such as hind metaphorically refer to beautiful women. ) This metaphor in the first line is the main metaphor which is extended throughout the sonnet. Also in the first line Wyatt uses alliteration, ‘whoso… hunt… ind,’ by doing this Wyatt is already giving the reader the impression that the hunter/narrator is out of breath and tired. We then get proof of this when in line 3 the narrator is describing his efforts as hopeless and that he is exhausted, ‘the vain travail hath wearied me so sore.
‘ This line is stating how he feels so sorry, for all his attempt were in vain to win her love and be united with her; now he is so wearied and sore. Also in this line he uses alliteration again, ‘so, sore,’ this is making the reader sigh – again making it seem that the narrator is worn out.
Between line 4 and 6 the narrator mentions how he is one of the hunters (‘them’) trying to win the ladys’ love, although he is falling behind the other hunters, ‘I am of them farthest cometh behind. ‘ Wyatt uses alliteration again, ‘may… means… my… mind. ‘ In line 7 of the sonnet he mentions how the dear runs ahead, he begins to lose hope in managing to get her, he uses alliteration again here, ‘fainting… follow,’ this is making it seem that the narrator is weary as to whether or not he will be able to catch her or whether he should give up now.
In the second half of line 7 he states he’s given up, ‘I leave off therefore’ as, in line 8, his struggles are similar to that of catching wind in a net, ‘since in a net I seek to hold the wind. ‘ This metaphor illustrates the themes in the sonnet, unattainable love and an unobtainable goal. This first part of the Italian Petrarch sonnet is called the octave and is where Wyatt has presented the problem, the rhyming pattern which goes with this first half of the sonnet is ABBAABBA.
The effect of using a Petrarchan sonnet is that it creates a ‘pause in thought’ where the changed rhymes underline the way the poet has stated the problem then added the solution to the problem. The sonnet is then carried on to present the solution, the sestet, with a rhyming scheme of CDDCEE. In line 9 alliteration is visible again, ‘whoso… her… hunt,’ again giving the impression the narrator is out of breath.
In lines 9 and 10 the narrator goes on to say how the one who is trying to hunt the deer will, more than likely, end up like him and leave the hunt/give up. Wyatt states that, ‘graven with diamonds in letters plain,’ diamonds are hard, precious stones meaning that the person who has caught her is very wealthy and that other ‘hunters’ have lost the hunt. This carries on to line 12 where it states that, ‘written her fair neck round about,’ this means that it’s around her neck and is visible for everyone to see.
Wyatt then goes onto using a quotation in Latin from the Bible, ‘Noli me tangere,’ meaning don’t touch me. This is a warning to others, saying how they must stay away from her. The next part of that line states, ‘for Caesar’s I am,’ this suggests that the person who caught her is of great importance – in this sonnet ‘Caesar’ is more than likely Henry VIII, however the name ‘Caesar’ is used to allow Wyatt to publish it as Henry VIII was in charge at that time.
The following line states, ‘And wild for to hold, though I seem tame,’ this suggests that the deer herself declares that while she appears tame, holding her is dangerous, as she is in fact wild. She is stating that catching her may be because you believe her to be tame, but in reality having her is impractical. This line employs a paradox wild for to hold, though I seem to tame. There is a contradiction between words wild and tame. This paradox illustrates the attitude of the lady toward her lovers and how she neglects them.
It also provides answer to the problem raised in octave. Diamonds are symbols of asset, and wealth; it makes clear two things. First, the lady is king’s property and no one is allowed to covet her; second, the king is rich and already paid the price for her. Although this poem is an Italian Petrarchan sonnet it is also a metaphorical sonnet/extended metaphor as he is telling his story, how men are trying to have a lady who doesn’t pay attention to them because she belongs to the king. The meter of this sonnet is iambic pentameter.
The word choice, imaginary language, grammatical disorder techniques, alliteration that makes the sonnet more musical, and metaphors that are used in this sonnet, make it more expressive and rich. The poet utilized first person point of view, using the pronouns I and me. It has three major themes power and weakness, or ruler and subjects; unreachable goal; unobtainable love. In power and weakness the theme is about how the king can do and have whatever he wants and the subjects should obey without any complain.
The next theme, unreachable goal, points out how man struggle to get to something unreachable although he knows he can’t. The third theme, unobtainable love, shows the speaker is in love with a lady which is in king possession. The tone of this work is hopelessness. I think that by reading this sonnet the reader sympathizes with Wyatt and his unsuccessful and unreachable love, he is expressing his true love towards Anne Boleyn yet still didn’t manage to catch her.