Poetry of Surrey and Wyatt; A comparison- Part I

Surrey and Wyatt, "Fathers of English Sonnet", have rendered great service not only to English sonnet but also to poetry itself. Though they both translated Petrarchan Sonnets and applied French and Italian style of sonnet to English, yet Surrey excelled his friend in doing so. No doubt that it was Sir Thomas Wyatt who introduced sonnet in English first, but it was Surrey that made it reach its culminating point. He beautified them with rhyming meter and divided them into quatrains. Surrey is also known for his contribution of blank verse to English poetry. However, we must not forget that Surrey developed the sonnet form from Wyatt. Seen in this perspective, they appear to have been the forefathers of modern day English poetry. It was on their innovation and foot prints that Shakespeare and Elizabethans moved on.

Strongly influenced the style and themes of Petrarch, Wyatt merely imitated his ideal and confined himself to the scope of love theme discussing the stiffness and the unkind attitude of the beloved. He treats the matter of love in an acute unemotional manner by deciding to leave his lady love when she seems unwilling to direct her love to the poet. This appears artificial because human passion is stirred by refusal whereas Wyatt abolishes the concept of convincing his darling when she is not moved by his love. A traditional love poet would kneel and subdue to the mistress for her love but this is otherwise in the poetry of Wyatt. For example in the poem of "Forget Not Yet":

"Forget not yet the great assays,
The cruel wrong, the scornful ways,
The painful patience in delays,
Forget not yet!"

The most important contribution of Wyatt to English poetry is, probably, the introduction of sonnet in imitation of the Italian poet Petrarch. Though having certain limitations and impurities, the sonnet form introduced by Wyatt became so popular in English that it has survived till today. Petrarch, in adopting the poetic form of sonnet to English, overdid in the adjustment of its rhyme scheme. This malfunctioned and disturbed the harmony of the set of 14 line sonnet. But the only imperfection we observe in his sonnet form is the rhyme scheme which is altered by him. Where Petrarch employs a rhyme scheme of:

a b b a a b b a c d c d c d


a b b a a b b a c d e c d e.

Wyatt alters the rhyme of last four lines i.e. d c e e. For example his sonnet "Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where Is an Hind..." is composed of 14 lines and the rhyme scheme for last 4 lines is d c e e:

"Please it you so to this to do relief.
If otherwise ye seek for to fulfill
Your disdain, ye err and shall not as ye ween,
And ye yourself the cause thereof hath been."
Read Part II...