'A Note On Wyatt' by Kingsley Amis

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Shake the Kaleidoscope [Milton Klonsky, ed.]See her come bearing down, a tidy craft!
Gaily her topsails bulge, her sidelights burn!
There's jigging in her rigging fore and aft,
And beauty's self, not name, limned on her stern.See at her head the Jolly Roger flutters!
"God, is she fully manned? If she's one short..."
Cadet, bargee, longshoreman, shellback mutters;

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, A Note On Wyatt: A Masterpiece in Criticism and Interpretation

As a literary critic, Kingsley Amis has left an indelible mark on the world of English literature. His keen insights, biting wit, and incisive analysis are second to none, and his work continues to be read and studied by scholars and enthusiasts alike. One of his most celebrated pieces of criticism is his essay on the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, titled "A Note On Wyatt." In this essay, Amis explores the life and work of Wyatt, placing him in the context of his time and offering a fresh interpretation of his poetry.

The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Wyatt

Amis begins his essay by providing a brief overview of Wyatt's life and career. He notes that Wyatt was born in 1503, the son of a noble family with close ties to the Tudor court. Wyatt received a first-rate education and was fluent in several languages, including Italian and French. He traveled extensively throughout Europe, spending time in France, Italy, and Spain. In 1536, he was appointed as ambassador to the court of Charles V in Spain, a position he held for two years.

Despite his many accomplishments, Wyatt's life was not without its difficulties. He was imprisoned for a time on suspicion of having an affair with Anne Boleyn, a charge that was almost certainly false. He also struggled with his health, suffering from bouts of depression and anxiety.

Wyatt's Poetry: A New Interpretation

Amis then turns his attention to Wyatt's poetry, arguing that it has been misunderstood and undervalued by scholars for centuries. He notes that previous critics have tended to view Wyatt's work as derivative and uninspired, lacking in originality and depth. Amis, however, sees things differently. He claims that Wyatt was a master of the sonnet form, and that his poems are marked by a powerful emotional intensity and a keen sense of psychological insight.

One of the key themes that Amis identifies in Wyatt's poetry is the tension between love and duty. Wyatt was a courtier, and his life was marked by the demands and expectations of his position. At the same time, he was a deeply passionate and emotional man, prone to intense feelings of love and desire. Amis argues that Wyatt's poetry is a reflection of this tension, and that his work explores the complexities of the human heart in a way that is both profound and deeply moving.

Another important theme in Wyatt's poetry, according to Amis, is the transience of human life. Wyatt lived in a time of great political turmoil, and his poetry often reflects the sense of uncertainty and impermanence that marked the era. He was also deeply influenced by the works of Italian poets such as Petrarch, who wrote extensively on the theme of the fleeting nature of human existence.

The Sonnets of Sir Thomas Wyatt

Amis then turns his attention to Wyatt's sonnets, which he argues are the most powerful and memorable of his works. He notes that Wyatt's sonnets are marked by a profound sense of emotional depth and complexity, and that they explore a range of themes and subjects in a way that is both original and deeply affecting.

One of the most striking features of Wyatt's sonnets, according to Amis, is their use of imagery. Wyatt was a master of metaphor and simile, and his poems are filled with vivid and evocative images. For example, in Sonnet 31, Wyatt compares his lover to a fish that is caught in a net, struggling to escape:

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
Twixt rock and rock; and, eke, mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every hour a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain;
Drownèd is Reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

This metaphorical language, according to Amis, is what gives Wyatt's poetry its power and resonance. By comparing his lover to a fish caught in a net, Wyatt is able to convey the sense of helplessness and desperation that he feels in his relationship.


In conclusion, Kingsley Amis's essay "A Note On Wyatt" is a masterpiece of literary criticism and interpretation. Amis offers a fresh and insightful reading of Wyatt's poetry, placing him in the context of his time and exploring the themes and techniques that make his work so enduring and powerful. Whether you are a scholar, a poet, or simply a lover of literature, this essay is a must-read for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the English literary tradition.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Note On Wyatt: A Masterpiece by Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis, the renowned British novelist, poet, and critic, is known for his witty and satirical writing style. His works are often characterized by a sharp sense of humor and a keen observation of human behavior. Among his many literary achievements, Amis's Poetry A Note On Wyatt stands out as a masterpiece of literary criticism.

In this essay, Amis analyzes the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, a 16th-century English poet who is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the English sonnet. Amis's analysis is not only a tribute to Wyatt's poetic genius but also a reflection on the nature of poetry itself.

Amis begins his essay by acknowledging the difficulty of analyzing poetry. He notes that poetry is a form of language that is inherently ambiguous and open to interpretation. However, he argues that this ambiguity is precisely what makes poetry so powerful. Poetry, according to Amis, is a form of language that can convey complex emotions and ideas in a way that prose cannot.

Amis then turns his attention to Wyatt's poetry. He notes that Wyatt's poetry is characterized by a sense of melancholy and a preoccupation with the transience of life. Wyatt's sonnets, in particular, are filled with images of decay and death. Amis argues that this preoccupation with mortality is what gives Wyatt's poetry its power. By confronting the inevitability of death, Wyatt is able to capture the fleeting nature of life in a way that is both poignant and beautiful.

Amis also notes that Wyatt's poetry is marked by a sense of ambiguity. Wyatt's use of language is often cryptic and difficult to decipher. However, Amis argues that this ambiguity is not a weakness but a strength. By leaving his poetry open to interpretation, Wyatt is able to convey a sense of mystery and depth that would be lost if his poetry were more straightforward.

One of the most interesting aspects of Amis's analysis is his discussion of Wyatt's use of form. Wyatt is known for his use of the sonnet form, which consists of fourteen lines and a strict rhyme scheme. Amis argues that Wyatt's use of form is not simply a matter of convention but a deliberate choice. By adhering to the strict rules of the sonnet form, Wyatt is able to create a sense of order and structure that contrasts with the chaotic and unpredictable nature of life.

Amis also notes that Wyatt's use of form is not limited to the sonnet. Wyatt's poetry is marked by a variety of different forms, including the rondeau and the ballade. Amis argues that Wyatt's use of these forms is not simply a matter of experimentation but a reflection of his poetic vision. By using different forms, Wyatt is able to explore different themes and emotions in his poetry.

Finally, Amis concludes his essay by reflecting on the nature of poetry itself. He argues that poetry is not simply a matter of language but a reflection of the human experience. Poetry, according to Amis, is a way of capturing the complexity and beauty of life in a way that is both profound and moving.

In conclusion, Kingsley Amis's Poetry A Note On Wyatt is a masterpiece of literary criticism. Through his analysis of Wyatt's poetry, Amis is able to capture the essence of poetry itself. His essay is a tribute to the power of language and the human experience. If you are a lover of poetry or simply interested in the nature of language, then this essay is a must-read.

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