‘Besmeared with Sluttish Time’

Resisting Lateness or Trying to in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 PhD Student, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
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One of the most remarkable things about Thomas Wyatt’s poetry is how strikingly it tends to be neglected in Renaissance studies. This article focuses on some of Wyatt’s sonnets and muses on why the poet obsesses over time therein. While sonnets are generally said to be about love, Wyatt’s seem to be not only about this overfamiliar notion but also about the notion of time. The poet’s concern about time in his poetry is however not a solo concern, meaning it is not expressed on its own; rather, it is coupled in an astonishing complexity to the poet’s preoccupation with death. Wyatt in fact experienced impending death at an early age in his lifetime due to illness, which, I explain, is precisely what sets off those temporal reflections. Impending death can indeed trigger in one an instant reflection on time in that one becomes more attentive to its value, movement, and transience and feels the urgency to save and get more of it, which is generally called lateness. Wyatt’s poetry being imbued by lateness makes it endemic to a certain kind of style: a late style.