Sunday, May 25, 2008

The lowest trees have tops

After watching the last gory hour of The Tudors on Showtime, to which Roger and I have become addicted, I went looking for a poem by Wyatt.  The series had Wyatt imprisoned and accused of having "known" the Queen (he may well have before her marriage, but, at any rate, was not accused and implicated at her "trial" and execution).  He's shown, in the series, penning some lines about the world's vanities, the machinations of power, and the smallness of the individual caught up in these sorts of political tempests.  Pretty typical Renaissance stuff, and even I, having read probably over 1,000 lyric poems of the 16th and 17th centuries in pursuit of my own degree, have difficulty remembering sometimes the depth of emotional conviction and despair that ran deep in the lives of these people: circumstances could change at any moment, the high become low, the low made high, life snatched from beneath the feet like a rug tugged suddenly.  

Maybe it's less that I didn't feel those sorts of lines then (you find a preponderance of them in Thomas More, of course, and in Edmund Spenser, both of whom rode the roller coaster of "favor" to unfortunate ends), but that I had had no life experience that so quite illuminated them as having my life changed in "an howr" by Robert's sudden crash.

At any rate, I did not find the Wyatt poem, having apparently mislaid my complete Wyatt.  But I did find this poem by Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607), which made me think of Robert:

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat;
The slender hairs cast shadows, though but small,
And bees have stings, although they be not great;
Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs:
And love is love, in beggars and in kings.

Where waters smoothest run, there deepest are the fords;
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
The firmest faith is found in fewest words;
The turtles do not sing, and yet they love;
True hearts have ears and eyes, no tongues to speak:
They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.

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