Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Vixi Puellis Nuper Idoneus
By Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542)
 
THEY 1 flee from me that sometime did me seek,
  With naked foot stalking within my chamber: 2
Once have I seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
  That now are wild, and do not once remember
That sometime they have put themselves in danger        5
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
  Busily seeking in continual change.
 
Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
  Twenty times better; but once especial.—
In thin array: after a pleasant guise,        10
  When her loose gown did from her shoulders fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small,
And therewithal so sweetly did me kiss, 3
  And softly said, ‘Dear heart, how like you this?’
 
It was no dream; for I lay broad awaking:        15
  But all is turn’d now, through my gentleness,
Into a bitter fashion of forsaking;
  And I have leave to go of her goodness;
And she also to use new-fangleness.
But since that I unkindly so am servèd,        20
  ‘How like you this?’—what hath she now deservèd?
 
Note 1. “Under the figure of a lady offering to him unsolicited the tenderest mark of affection, he describes, in a lively manner, his early good fortune and success in life when, as he expresses himself in the ode preceding, using the same metaphorical language adopted in the present ode, ‘Methought, Fortune me kissed.’ Following the same figure he naturally refers his subsequent misfortunes to that constitutional levity, that ‘strange fashion of forsaking,’ which is too common with the gentler sex. The ode is one of no considerable merit; it is original and full of feeling.” (Nott, Howard and Wyat.) [back]
Note 2. Stalking within my chamber: to steal softly with noiseless step. Sometimes, to steal upon one as in the soft and imperceptible approach of sleep. Cf. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, l. 8400:
  The lover is of colour dead and pale;
There will no sleep into his eyes stalk.
Note 3. Sweetly she did me kiss: The propriety of this image depends in great measure on a circumstance which grew out of the manners of the days of chivalry, and which is now forgotten. Whenever a lady accepted the service of a knight, or acknowledged a person as her servant, or lover, she gave him a kiss, voluntarily offered on her part; and this was considered to be an inviolable bond of obligation. The reverence with which women were approached in those days ensured that this simple mark of approbation was never misconceived or abused. Cf. Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida, Bk. III., line 180, where Cressida, permitting Troilus to become her knight, advances modestly towards him, supported by her uncle, and gives him the formal kiss. For the prevalence of the custom in England, see Erasmus’ Letter to his friend Faustus Andrelinus. Also, for the use of Erasmus’ correspondence on this custom, see Mr. Maurice Hewlett’s The Duchess of Nona, in The Little Novels of Italy, chap. I. [back]
 
 
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