Assume the position!
1. Read the analytical writing handout on the Writing Papers webpage. What does it say? Show me that you understand by putting its suggestions to work in this little assignment:
2. Here is a celebrated sonnet by Thomas Wyatt, a translation of Petrarch's Rime 104. Explain how your assigned quatrain (with one exception) functions in the poem, e.g., why in its place? what does it contribute? does it advance an idea? If you have something better to analyze, feel free to offer it. Most important: which line in your section seems most important, worthy of discussion, and why?
I find no peace, and all my war is done ;
I fear and hope, I burn, and freeze like ice ;
I fly aloft, yet can I not arise ;
And nought I have, and all the world I seize on,
The first quatrain of Wyatt’s translation of Petrarch’s Rime 104 presents us with several sets of dichotomies that at first seem mutually exclusive. However, once the concept of unrequited love is applied to them, they begin to work together. “I find no peace, and all my war is done,” the author writes first, indicating that though he is not actively fighting to attain his love, he cannot feel at peace as long as he bears the love in his heart. “I fear and hope, I burn, and freeze like ice,” he continues, which shows that he fears her reaction to his love, but he hopes that it is positive. His heart burns with passion for her, but he freezes and is unable to approach her romantically. “I fly aloft, yet can I not arise,” he says, noting that his love for the woman he desires makes him feel like he’s flying with bliss, but as long as they are not really together, he feels like he cannot get up in the morning and is weighed down by the fact that the love is only one-way. The last line of the quatrain says, “And nought I have, and all the world I seize on.” He doesn’t have her love, but he grasps the things in the world around him to fill the void that she leaves. This is the first quatrain because it sets up the ideas that the others would follow. It is strong enough to even stand on its own as a short poem to unrequited love as the contrasting wording is powerful and image-provoking. The final line of the quatrain is the most important, because of the different interpretations. One might find that “all the world I seize on” would indicate seizing on his love, but in the earlier lines, it shows the author freezing and generally acting in a more passive role whereas seizing his love would be much more active. It seems more like he is trying calm his passions through the other things around him though he is not successful. It isn’t out of the realm of imagination that people would try to distract themselves when they know their feelings aren’t reciprocated.
In Wyatt's translation of Petrarch he starts with the line, "I find no peace, and all my war is done." This line signifies that even at a time when he is supposed to be at peace he isn't because of his unrequited love. In the second line he says "I fear and hope; I burn and freeze like ice." He is hopeful that the woman he loves will love him back and fearful that she won't. This feeling is excruciating pain for him. Wyatt then says that he flies but cannot arise. This means that his love makes him feel like he is flying but in reality he can never leave the ground because she won't return those feelings. And finally he says that he has nothing but he seizes the world. This relates to him not having her love but he is determined to have it. This quatrain comes first in the poem because it sets up what the poem is about and what it will lead to in the other stanzas.Wyatt’s translation starts with, “I find no peace, and all my war is done.” The line, “all my war is done,” seems to mean that either a literal war he fought might be over, but it is more likely referring to some other struggle or conflict in his life. Despite this conflict being over the speaker is apparently still not at peace and the source of this unrest is likely to appear later in the poem. The next stanza presents a series of opposites that the speaker claims to experience all at once; fear and hope, burning and freezing. This stanza seems to imply that the speaker is in conflict with himself, he is both fearful and hopeful and he experiences both extremes concurrently and equally. The next two lines continue this odd paradox with, “I fly aloft, yet I cannot rise,” and, “And nought I have, and all the world I seize on respectively. Both statements are contradictory and don't seem to make a lot of sense, however they along with the rest of the lines may refer to a relationship of some sorts where the speaker feels that only he has these feelings and they are not reciprocated, though the first quatrain is fairly vague and the idea of unrequited love can only be inferred though is probable in the sonnet form. The first four stanzas serve to set up a frame of mind for the speaker where he can clearly be seen to be in some discomfort and emotional turmoil, while the next lines of the poem will likely explore this and clarify the first quatrain's meaning.
That locks nor loseth, holdeth me in prison,
And holds me not, yet can I scape no wise :
Nor lets me live, nor die, at my devise,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
The second quatrain leads the reader into the hopeless struggle one is in when love has consumed them. Wyatt shows indecision by making the speaker bounce ideas, would it be better to live and love or die to end their sorrow. This stanza contributes to the idea of Petrarchan love, that love is something the speaker cannot obtain. The way the speaker describes his prison, it is apparent that they are no longer in control of their love or life. “Nor lets me live, nor die, at my devise,” their life is no longer being decided by their own thoughts, but rather it is being decided by their love/heart. Only death will break the bond that holds the love together. This quote is the most important because it conveys the central idea of the stanza which is the speaker is powerless to the wills of love. The third line is the most important of the stanza. It conveys to the reader the feeling that the speaker has tormenting them. “Devise” is the word that catches my eye in the line. It is not just the word, but the phrase “my devise”. The speaker is trying to control the love, but it operates as a separate entity. It gives him neither life or death, but still the speaker exists.
Without eye I see; without tongue I plain:
I wish to perish, yet I ask for health ;
I love another, and thus I hate myself ;
I feed me in sorrow, and laugh in all my pain.
The third quatrain is the bridge between the beginning of the poem where the audience is introduced to the apparent conflicting views of the speaker, and then to the explanation behind the speakers internal strife. Although the audience isn’t fully aware of the speakers conflict until the final two lines (13 and 14) the tenth line “I wish to perish, yet I ask for health ;“ alludes to the speakers unhappiness in both life and death.
Pleasures of death are romanticized in this poem as death is looked upon as delivery from the torment brought on by the poet’s love. The first two quatrains of the poem establish the poet’s vice; his inability to cash in on his love for another makes him feel stuck, frozen, grounded, despite feeling elated by the effects of enamor. The second quatrain specifically develops the poet’s sensation of entrapment within paradoxical confines. While the poet reports himself being neither freed or locked inside of the mentioned prison, the futility of attempting to break the hold of the miserable vice is so oppressing, that death seems to the poet a viable escape. In the third and final quatrain, the argument for death has the poet nearly completely convinced of its validity. Without the bodily senses which allow the poet to react to the world, the poet can be stoic in the face of adversity. The paradoxical nature of the poem, however, has the poet ultimately not asking for death, as even it cannot serve as the ultimate deliverer from the pains of love.
Within Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet, Petrarch's Rime 104, the line that I find most important to the poem as a whole is, “I love another, and thus I hate myself” as the contrasting words of love and hate show the cynical view that the speaker has of love due to it’s uneven nature. Understanding this view is imperative to understanding the poem as a whole because it demonstrates how the speaker feels that love is so painful that he must have to truly hate himself in order to entertain such an emotion. Such a notion reinforces the concept of unrequited love which is brought about in the first two stanzas as the emotional effects of such a predicament are displayed through his emotional torment. The contradictions apparent throughout the third stanza as well as the rest of the poem display the confused state that the speaker is in, he does not really want to die although death appears constantly on his mind as the only conceivable solace from the painful result of unrequited love. Ultimately the speaker’s love is stronger than his pain as even though he longs for death, he does not wish to actually die, for to do so would bring him farther from his love. The words, “laugh in all my pain” reinforce this notion as they show that even though he is suffering, he still delights in the emotion of love. Essentially, the speaker is caught in a painful cycle of wanting to be free from the pain of unrequited love and not wanting to lose the pure love that he has formed.
Lo, thus displeaseth me both death and life,
And my delight is causer of this strife.
Wyatt’s speaker expresses “thus displeaseth me both death and life,” he finds no escape from his desire. With death he could escape the pain, and yet lose his passion. With life he could experience love, but suffer from the sting it causes. His affection knows no cure, and throughout the sonnet the speaker describes the physical and mental torment it brings him. “I fear and hope, I burn,” the feelings he portrays are mixed and confused. Fear and burning are unpleasant thoughts, but hope is more optimistic and promising. He expresses the uncertainty of attachment and the conflicting feelings it causes by using paradoxes. “Wish to perish, yet I ask for health” or “laugh in all my pain,” the speaker is constantly contradicting himself. Wyatt expresses the depth of human’s interaction with love. However, Wyatt’s speaker seems resigned to this fate with the last line of the sonnet, “my delight is courser of this strife.” He realizes that the love he feels will also result in pain. Wyatt appears to show that love is irrational, and if the narrator wishes to pursue this love he may suffer emotional or physical peril. However, by not pursuing his desires he will also be trapped. The sonnet embodies ambiguity in pursuing love.