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Sir Thomas Wyatt:

The Father of English Poetry

Sir Thomas Wyatt was an English poet and diplomat. He is best remembered for individualistic poems that deal openly in everyday speech with the trials of romantic love. He was born at Allington near Maidstone Kent in 1503, but little is known of his childhood education. In 1516, he entered John's College, University of Cambridge, and graduated in 1518. He was commissioned in 1524 by Henry VIII to fulfill various political offices at home and abroad.

Wyatt's interest in Anne Boleyn resulted in a short sentencing in the Tower of London. During this time, Boleyn and King Henry VIII married. Wyatt, devastated, sat down and wrote his famous sonnet "Whose List To Hunt."

Wyatt was in and out of jail in 1536, either for consorting with Anne Boleyn or for quarreling with the Duke of Suffolk. In 1541, he was arrested again, this time on charges of treason.

After being released from jail, Wyatt was reinstated to the king's favor and was knighted. He served the king from 1537 to 1539 as an ambassador to the court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In 1541, Sir Thomas Wyatt was charged with treason by Edmund Bonner, the Bishop of London, but was soon restored to favor and was given various royal offices. He soon became ill and died at Sherborne on October 11, 1542.

During Wyatt's lifetime, none of his poems had been published except for "The Court of Venus." His first published work was Certain Psalms, which were metrical translations of penitential psalms. Wyatt and his contemporary, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, are credited with introducing the sonnet into English poetry. Both poets translated ten of Petrarch's sonnets, composed original sonnets, and worked in other poetic forms such as the lyric, song, and rondeau. Wyatt himself also wrote three highly regarded satires in terza rima.

Sir Thomas Wyatt's poetry first appeared in Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets Written by the Right of Honorable Lord Henry Howard Late Earl of Surrey and Other. Wyatt's meter was often irregular, a feature that his critics found crude, but 20th century critics praise his rhythms for their vigor and expressiveness. Critics have noted that he is often unsure of where stresses or accents should fall and his spellings were inconsistent, making the stresses unclear. On examining some of his famous sonnets, readers can see that he used typical Petrarchan conventions, which are generally rendered from Italian models. They also follow the rhyme scheme abba cddc effe gg.

In his sonnets, Sir Thomas Wyatt often presented physical and spiritual love, differentiating his work from the usual Petrarchan style. Along with the Earl of Surrey, Wyatt is known as the father of English poetry.

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