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.
 
To His Lute
By Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542)
 
MY 1 lute, awake! perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
  And end that I have now begun;
For when this song is sung and past,
  My lute, be still, for I have done.        5
 
As to be heard where ear is none,
As lead to grave in marble stone, 2
  My song may pierce her heart as soon:
Should we then sigh, or sing, or moan?
  No, no, my lute! for I have done.        10
 
The rocks do not so cruelly
Repulse the waves continually,
  As she my suit and affection;
So that I am past remedy:
  Whereby my lute and I have done.        15
 
Proud of the spoil that thou hast got
Of simple hearts thorough Love’s shot,
  By whom, unkind, thou hast them won;
Think not he hath his bow forgot,
  Although my lute and I have done.        20
 
Vengeance shall fall on thy disdain,
That makest but game of earnest pain;
  Think not alone under the sun
Unquit to cause thy lover’s plain,
  Although my lute and I have done.        25
 
Perchance they lay wither’d and old
The winter nights that are so cold,
  Plaining in vain unto the moon:
Thy wishes then dare not be told:
  Care then who list! for I have done.        30
 
And then may chance thee 3 to repent
The time that thou hast lost and spent
  To cause thy lover’s sigh and swoon:
Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
  And wish and want as I have done.        35
 
Now cease, my lute! this is the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
  And ended is that we begun:
Now is this song both sung and past—
  My lute be still, for I have done.        40
 
Note 1. “This Ode,” says Nott, “occurs in the Nugae Antiquae, vol. ii., p. 252, Ed. 1775, and is there given to Lord Rochford; evidently erroneously, for it is here printed from the Harington MS., No. 1, p. 80, which was Wyat’s own MS., and is signed with his name in his own handwriting. It is a poem of singular merit. It is one of the most elegant amatory Odes in our language. It is as beautifully arranged in all its parts as any of the odes of Horace. The Lute, to which the Ode is addressed, corresponded nearly to the modern guitar. It was the instrument to which almost all the amatory compositions of our early poets were sung; whence they were properly called Songs, corresponding to the Italian Cantate. Every person of good education played on the lute. Surrey excelled on that instrument, and composed to it several elegant airs…. I should not scruple to say that this Ode of Wyat is more elegant and feeling than that of Horace to Lydia on a subject nearly similar.—Lib. I., Ode 25.” [back]
Note 2. As lead to grave in marble stone: i.e., It would be more easy for lead, which is the softest of metals, to engrave characters on hard marble, than it is for me to make an impression on her obdurate heart. To grave: in the sense of making an impression upon, was common among the early writers. Cf. Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida, Bk. II., l. 1241:
  But ye have played the tyrant all too long,
And hard was it your heart for to grave.
Note 3. May chance thee lie: Wyat, says Nott, is incomparably more elegant and pleasing in this passage than Horace in the following lines:
  Cum tibi flagrans amor, et libido
Quæ solet matres furiare equorum,
Sæviet circa jecur ulcerosum,
            Non sine questu, etc.
And it is Nott’s opinion that, “there is nothing in the whole of Horace’s ode equal in beauty to the two lines which conclude the seventh stanza in Wyat:
  “Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
And wish and want as I have done.”
 
 
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