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Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 39, 1997. 230-258.

Country Mouse and Towny Mouse: Truth in Wyatt

Christopher Z. Hobson

Truth is a crucial term in the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt. The word and its derivatives, with closely related terms like "trust" and "faith," and their derivatives and opposites, appear in nearly 50 percent of his poems. These terms frequently clump together, three and four to a poem, although it is equally true that there are major poems raising the issue of truth in which none of them appears.1 Their frequency in Wyatt is an index of the importance of a cluster of ideas: truth in its various senses, particularly the value and power of truth.

Wyatt's "truth" has become a touchstone of competing critical methods. Older critical approaches, despite their own differences, have found in the poet's work a stable core of belief, in which speaking truth is central. Whether the core is seen as Tudor humanism, the "inner man," Senecan-stoic disregard of circumstance, religious affirmation, or the stabilizing value of ironic statement, the poems that embody the core of belief are seen as those in which Wyatt lays aside his characteristic "doubleness" and speaks directly. A contrasting strand of New Historicist interpretation has challenged the existence of any such stable core. In Stephen Greenblatt's influential formulation, a Wyatt poem is "not a direct expression of the author's mind," but an instrument "to manifest and augment his power." Hence the ostensible subject -- "the single self, the affirmation of wholeness or stoic apathy or quiet of mind" -- is actually "a rhetorical construction designed to enhance the speaker's power, allay his fear, disguise his need." The real drama of the poems, in such a reading, comes in the inadvertent bleeding through of these fears and needs, which makes it possible to see behind the façade.2

My purpose is to criticize the polarities assumed in such treatments, through an examination of Wyatt's career lyrics and satires. While rejecting the idea that any set of Wyatt poems presents his real concerns straightforwardly and arguing that Wyatt invariably operates from concealment, I criticize the counterassumption that finds in him only a shifty self-presentation. I argue that through extraordinary poetic craft Wyatt 

constitutes a self that is definable though concealed, and definable through its concealment. Further, the need for this concealment is itself a thesis of some of Wyatt's major poems.

This discussion of Wyatt points, as well, to underlying conceptions about subjectivity and social opposition found in some New Historicist theorizing. New Historicist interpretation has often argued that "autonomous self and text are mere holograms, effects that intersecting institutions produce"; that "the creation of modern subjectivity [lies] in the necessary failures to produce a stable subject" (Veeser, xiii; Gallagher, 47). Wyatt, indeed, has served as one vehicle for such arguments. Simultaneously, much New Historicist criticism has assumed that a society's structures of power permeate the entire field of cultural production, so that all cultural works, willingly or not, reproduce the ruling ideology; in Greenblatt's apothegm, "There is subversion, no end of subversion, only not for us" ( Negotiations, 39, 65). The issues are of course linked, in that denial of a relatively stable subjectivity removes one arena in which oppositional thought could take form. In contention between proponents of this view and some of their critics has been the degree to which culture reflects dominant ideology -- whether artistic works can embody a consciousness that is counter to the ruling ideology, in whole or in part, within the framework of other powerfully supported cultural norms, such as ethical or religious values.3

Acknowledging that Greenblatt's approach "makes no space for change or for contestation," Louis A. Montrose has formulated a modified New Historicist position to take account of the differing "interests," "social positionalities," and "properties" of the makers, receivers, and media of cultural communications, and so to recognize "the manifold mediations involved in the production, reproduction and appropriation of an ideological dominance" (33n, 22). Montrose wishes to acknowledge "the relative autonomy of specific discourses and their capacity to impact upon the social formation, to make things happen" (23; Montrose's emphasis). Yet there are two problems with these loosened formulations. The first lies in the phrase "production, reproduction and appropriation of an ideological dominance." Despite a nod toward Elizabethan "heterodoxy" (24), this formula still pictures culture at any moment as a "dominance," thus minimizing the ways it can be opposed within a larger consensus or given different meanings in practice. The second, more subtle problem is that of how "discourses" shift. This problem involves an avoidance of that problematic element (for New Historicists), the individual and collective self. The idea of the dominance of a discourse, even when modified by the specification that other discourses have "relative autonomy," provides no explanation of how discourses merge, recombine, change the reference and meaning of their terms, and develop new terms. Such

an explanation requires not merely the idea of relatively autonomous discourses, but that of relatively distinct individual and group identities whose communications or reactions rework them. Though Montrose does not necessarily share the view that the self is mere artifact, it is not among the elements of the New Historicist paradigm that he chooses to recast.

To criticize such approaches, it is not necessary to return to ideas of a presocial, autonomous self or of art standing apart from social structures. It is only necessary to recognize that subjectivities shaped by often crosscutting social contexts acquire their own hardness and resilience, in varying degrees. A historical period such as the English Renaissance, marked by increased personal mobility for the elite, by overlapping intellectual vocabularies -- those of changing Christian doctrine, classical traditions, courtly politics, courtly love, and so on -- and by conflicts between public discourse and backstage conduct, need not produce only a self whose discourse mirrors career vicissitudes. Such a period may also produce a self that takes defined form around archaic or nondominant discourses; additionally, and centrally for my purposes, it may produce one that simply holds back, creating a second layer of ideas open only to a few. In our own time, the career of an Andrei Sakharov, and the practice of others in Communist regimes who kept their own truths while repeating approved slogans, should remind us of these possibilities. The basic weakness of New Historicist formulations is not their attack on the notion of an individuality apart from society. It is that they insist on a concept of self as vector sum of social pressures. This conception reifies one aspect of a complex relation -- between social existence and subjectivity -- into the only determining aspect, just as humanism and romanticism did, though in the opposite direction.

Wyatt's treatment of truth is a corrective to such conceptions. Neither confidently resting on inner truth nor uneasily betraying inner anxiety, Wyatt works through purposeful concealment to present a "truth" that is primarily a negative social criticism. Its central messages are that truth and personal integrity are not to be relied on in a world of power and, in the satires, that neither honest counsel nor withdrawal is a solution to traditional dilemmas of truth versus service. Wyatt's characteristic tone of embattled honesty, implying that the speaker is entangled in false social relations but not false statements, is thus a surface one; underneath it is the more radical suggestion that truth is powerless. Wyatt's poems veil truth by concealing risky meanings under conventional ones, suggesting latenter (to use Annabel Patterson's term borrowed from Vergilian commentary) what they deny or slur over on the surface.4

Wyatt's evasions and ambiguities are a purposeful defense that secures a genuine subjectivity at the price of careful concealment. The

base-level value of this subjectivity lies in its power of covert social criticism. While Wyatt, as a court poet and Henrician diplomat, does not question the court system's fundamental legitimacy, he does question its operations, the precariousness of honesty within this system, and the necessary dissimulation of political life. And he does so systematically, through art. The only evidence of an art of indirection, as opposed to simple contradiction between surface and subtext, is the existence of pattern. Methodical juxtaposition of different conceptions at distinct levels of text suggests conscious control. Such a patterning in Wyatt's career lyrics and satires allows us to observe Wyatt's control of his evasions and allows Wyatt, through this control, to get away with them. This art of indirection is Wyatt's truth about truth. Its emblem is the two mice of the second satire, who are at one level characters in a conventional moral fable, at a second level the objects of a latent political satire, and at a third, even more hidden level figures for the slipperiness needed to tell the truth and survive.

Wyatt's characteristically double way of functioning is found in several lyrics that have received important recent commentary. Jonathan Crewe's analyses of "What vaileth trouth" and "Goo burnyng sighes" form an appropriate starting point, because Crewe starts from New Historicist conceptions yet challenges them by ascribing Wyatt's evasions to a consciously dissimulating self. Crewe's concern is with what he sees as a New Historicist romanticization of potentialities for metamorphosis and transgression in Tudor-Elizabethan discourses of gender. He stresses, instead, a conservative resistance to the erosion of boundaries and an effort to construct a "centered masculine, aristocratic poetic character" (18). His treatment of Wyatt's erotic lyrics argues that they construct such a character indirectly, via purposeful dissimulation, and this is his relevance to my focus on Wyatt's view of truth.

"What vaileth trouth" and "Goo burnyng sighes" discuss duplicity while presenting their own truths duplicitously. In the first, Crewe finds a hidden resonance in the characteristic Wyatt complaint, "against deceipt & dowblenes / What vaileth trouth" (8-9).5 Under the surface point that craftiness (line 4) and doubleness prevail over truth, the pun vail/veil suggests a second level of meaning on which truth itself works in a veiled way, so that "it, rather than the obvious deceit and doubleness, emerges as the figure of craft" (30-1). The poem, then, both displays double levels of meaning and discusses the need for them, though "veiledly."

In "Goo burnyng sighes" the overt theme is the need for "craft" in love, but as Crewe notes, "craft" also refers to the poet's art (33-4). Hence,

a poem on the need for stratagems in love becomes a comment on truth and stratagem in language.

Goo burnyng sighes Vnto the frosen hert
goo breke the Ise whiche pites paynfull dert
myght never perse and if mortall prayer
in hevyn may be herd at lest I desir
that deth or mercy be ende of my smert
Take with the payn wherof I have my pert
and eke the flame from which I cannot stert
and leve me then in rest I you require
Goo burning sighes

I must goo worke I se by craft & art
for trueth & faith in her is laide apert
Alas I cannot therefor assaill her
with pitefull plaint & scalding fyer
that oute of my brest doeth straynably stert
Goo burning sighes (Harrier, 119)6

"Craft & art" here are the same as the "veiled" truth of "What vaileth." The futility of the standard lover's appeal also refers indirectly to the futility of direct statement in poetry, and the poem announces, more clearly than the other, a tactic of indirection.7 Crewe's excellent analysis nevertheless misunderstands the final lines in arguing that they lead only to "an anticlimactic repetition of "Goo, burning sighes' " that "takes us back to where we started" (34) and shows Wyatt's predilection for "perverse repetition" (36). The recurrences of the opening phrase indeed create a surface effect of endless iteration. But underneath this effect, the refrain changes subtly in meaning through the poem. In lines 1-5 the sighs are simply dispatched "Vnto the frosen hert" of the woman; in lines 6-9 they are directed to her heart but also away from the speaker's heart ("leve me then in rest I you require / Goo burning sighes"). Finally, in lines 10-15, since the impotent "pitefull plaint & scalding fyer" are the burning sighs, the conclusion is that assailing with sighs will not work, there is no place to send the sighs "Vnto," and the speaker's instruction to his sighs becomes: Go away, cease.

"Goo burnyng sighes" is in fact a poem of resolution; it both records and enacts a decision to be cold, to cease sighing, and to substitute craft for plaint. The poem carries out two simultaneous operations: by circling back verbally it reassures us that we are still in the conventional courtlylove world of burning sighs and cold hearts; by changing the meaning of the refrain phrase it moves forward, undermining that assurance and telling us that the sighs have become ice. As a statement about language and

verse, "Goo burnyng sighes" is a comment on the uses of subtlety and indirectness, and the need for speech that subverts through indirection rather than "assailing" through open statement. Indeed, the "trueth & faith" that the lady is charged with abandoning are also qualities that the lover -- and by extension the poet -- must spurn as he turns instead to "craft." This analysis, while it takes from Crewe the emphasis on "craft & art" as elements of Wyatt's poetic method, departs from Crewe's assessment that Wyatt's masking is merely the construction of a persona -- that of "crafty strongman" who "dissimulate [s]" his masculine centeredness through "performances of clumsiness, weakness, martyred innocence," and the like (27-8). Instead, this analysis implies at the core of his art a definable self engaged in self-masking and obsessed with the perils of openness.

The sense of a veiled, double truth and self that emerges from these poems can be clarified by distinguishing it from the idea of a clear-cut core of truth signified through irony, as proposed in one of the best traditional readings of Wyatt, that of Thomas M. Greene. Greene's overall focus is on Renaissance uses of imitatio to shape a relation to the past, a conserving tradition that he explores both in its own terms and in implicit opposition to Derridean emphases on linguistic instability. Hence, his treatment of Wyatt strives to find the terms that the poet invests with a stability that resists the social and linguistic mutability otherwise pervasive in his verse. Greene points to the centrality of truth in Wyatt's personal ethics, evidenced in his letters to his son, and to the way this term, in sixteenth-century usage, encompassed the concepts "truth" and "troth" -- factual and religious truth, on the one hand, and the truth of one's pledges, or honesty and faithfulness, on the other (254-5). For Greene, Wyatt's uses of "trouth" imply a "troth" devalued by amorous and political duplicity, and a "truth" threatened with devaluation yet ultimately rescued as transcendent value through irony. Because it creates a hierarchy of meanings, "ironic statement seems to acquire a certain stability that resists the attrition of conventional meanings . . . [and] affirms the integrity of the isolated moral observer" (259). Greene finds such affirmations in a series of Wyatt statements about truth and honesty, some examined below: "These proverbis yet do last," "Content the then with honest pouertie," and others (258, 262-3).

At one level, Greene's distinction makes a great deal of sense. While Wyatt frequently subjects the idea of "troth" to ironic devaluation, truth in the sense of true statement is never directly ironized. A poem like the familiar "Blame not my lute" shows Wyatt's claim of an overriding value for truth in this sense. Playing on the lack of truth as "troth," the poem simultaneously, without using the word, states the need for truthful speech:

Spite asketh spite and changing change
And falsed faith must needs be known.
The faults so great, the case so strange
Of right it must abroad be blown.
Then since that by thine own desert
My songs do tell how true thou art
Blame not my lute. (22-8; Rebholz, 130)

Yet the importance of truth is only the surface meaning, for the injured lover is transparently using the excuse of truthtelling to get back at his mistress. The very insistence with which the poet refers to new examples of faithlessness circumvents this deflection and calls attention to the fact that truth is being valued not for its own sake but as a means of retribution. The poem thus begins to work on two levels. We can accept "Of right it must abroad be blown" at face value, crediting the sincerity of the truthtelling stance and assuming that egotism and misogyny blind the speaker to its retributive uses, or we can regard the poem as indirectly revealing these uses. I am not suggesting that the poem criticizes male vengefulness, but rather that it shows an awareness of the use of truthtelling as mask and tactic. To read only the affirmation of truth's value is to miss this second level. Only by questioning the ironic statement of truth's value, in which Greene would find resistant moral integrity -"Blame not my lute" -- can we penetrate to this deeper and more complex truth.

The layering and concealment characteristic of these erotic lyrics is also found in Wyatt's political or career lyrics, to which I now turn. They are exemplified in his epigram "Sighs are my food," apparently written in one of his periods of imprisonment -- either in 1536, when he was jailed along with Anne Boleyn and her accused lovers, or in 1541, when he was accused of treason after the execution of his patron Thomas Cromwell. His life was in real danger on both occasions.

Sighs are my food, drink are my tears;
Clinking of fetters such music would crave.
Stink and close air away my life wears.
Innocency is all the hope I have.
Rain, wind, or weather I judge by mine ears.
Malice assaulted that righteousness should have.
Sure I am, Brian, this wound shall heal again
But yet, alas, the scar shall still remain. (Rebholz, 99)8

The poem concerns the value and efficacy of innocence, a quality Wyatt links with truth in "Who list his wealth and ease retain" (discussed be

low) and elsewhere. It has been read as a straightforward assertion of Wyatt's "innocence," with its apostrophe to Sir Francis Bryan showing Wyatt's "trust" in him (Muir, 185; Thomson, 275). Such readings do accurately register its surface content. The poem's apparent confidence and plainspokenness exemplify qualities in Wyatt's poetry that impressed at least Surrey among his contemporaries. Surrey quoted the "scar" remark (probably remembered from Wyatt repetition in his Defence) in an epigram to Radcliffe -- "Salomon sayd, the wronged shall recure; / But Wiat said true, the skarre doth aye endure"; in an elegy he credited Wyatt with "A hart, where drede was neuer so imprest / To hyde the thought that might the trouth auance" (Surrey, 93, 98). Yet forthright as the poem may appear, ambiguity is its hallmark, as becomes clear when we examine its syntax and construction.

At first reading we seem to "know" what the poem means -- the poet is in miserable conditions, sure of vindication, but bitter about the lasting effects of the experience. We may skip over or discount such salient features as the reversed syntax in line 1, the unclear reference of "such" in line 2, or the placement of line 4's reference to hope midway in the list of complaints rather than after them. But the ambiguities are Wyatt's. The parallel verbal structures in the two halves of line 1 (noun, verb, possessive, noun) lead us to expect syntactic parallelism ("sighs" and "drink" as subjects), but the line resists clarity until we realize that "drink" is the complement. In line 2 "such" at first seems to be an adjective, and "such music" to be the music of sighs and tears; but the puzzling questions of why the clinking of fetters would crave the music of tears (or the reverse), coupled with the underlying metaphoric structure (food, drink, music: sighs, tears, clinking), lead to the realization that "such" is a pronoun, "music" is a dative, and the line is to be read "such (the sighs and tears) crave the clinking as music."

If one is attentive to these syntactic disruptions that force the reconsideration of apparent meanings, one will also realize that "Innocency is all the hope I have" is not "misplaced" among several lines referring to the poet's miserable circumstances, but rather is to be read as one of those circumstances, as a shocking, bitter statement on the powerlessness of truth: innocency is all the hope I have. The line's placement is a kind of visual metaphor that stymies the first, easy, consolatory reading: innocency cannot get me out of prison any more than it can move from line 4 to line 6. The "weather" of line 5 now acquires a second, political sense: I can only judge by mine ears the weather at court (on which my reprieve actually depends). And the apparent confidence of line 7 becomes darkly bitter once we realize that Wyatt was probably fully aware of the shiftiness of Sir Francis Bryan: directing the statement to Bryan, among all possible addressees, suggests the unsureness of vindication.9

In this short poem, then, one comes face to face both with the persistent Wyatt persona -- rough, honest, assailed, confident, dedicated above all to truth -- and with the underlying, contrary assertion of indirectness and lack of truthfulness. Sighs are my food is a poem that insistently whispers, I am devious, do not accept what I seem to say.

The masking seen here is similar to, but goes beyond, Wyatt's procedures in some of his erotic poems. There, he may introduce Petrarchan tropes and then violate them in a way that implies a political subtext ( The flaming sighs, discussed by Heine-Harabasz [308]); or he will oscillate between erotic and political meanings before settling into an erotic context that leaves the political reading as only an undertone ( Cesar when that the traytour of Egipt).10 But Sighs are my food uses layered construction not to deflect political interpretation but to give it purposeful indirection. The same tactic is found in a series of poems that allude to career vicissitudes -- Who list his wealth and ease retain, Stand whoso list upon the slipper top, Venemus thornes, He is not ded, After great stormes, and Mistrustful minds.

These poems, separated in the manuscripts and presumably written at different times, form a group only insofar as they deal with political danger and disgrace. Since Raymond Southall first focused on it in The Courtly Maker, the most discussed of these poems has been Who list his wealth and ease retain; it is also the most explicit. The poem opens with two stanzas adapted from Seneca on the insecurity of the lives of the great, each ending with the motto "circa Regna tonat" -- "he [Jupiter] thunders around thrones." It continues:

These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might
That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat. (11-25; Rebholz, 155)11

The final lines state openly what is only hinted in Sighs are my food -neither innocence nor intelligence are any help to the accused.

If, as is usually assumed, the poem refers to Anne Boleyn's execution, these lines may also reflect an awareness that the poet's position as Cromwell's protégé and Sir Henry Wyatt's son counted for as much as or more than his circumspect behavior toward Anne in gaining his survival. "Truth" (and the related "sure") is used in the factual sense in this poem to emphasize the inability of truth (in the sense of fidelity) or innocence to assure survival. This point is underlined by the Latin motto appearing at the top of the poem:

V. Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei

The virtues that surround Wyatt's name, innocence, truth, and faith, are those that are of no avail in the final stanza. Together with the following line, My enemies have surrounded me, they form a visual metaphor like that in Sighs are my food: on the one hand they keep the enemies away from Wyatt's name, on the other they are the surrounding enemies (Foley, 44) -- grimly varying the courtly-love trope that the lover's virtues, such as constancy, are also his pain. As a whole, the poem radiates a kind of radical passivity, a sense not of the preferability of low estate, but of the impotence of truth and innocence. It ends in fatalistic resignation, a decision to give over the steering of the ship to God, not out of piety, but because of the thoroughgoing unpredictability of human action.12

None of the other poems in this group is as skeptical about the relationship of truth to political power as this one; indeed, with the exception of the Seneca adaptation Stand whoso list -- an ethical reflection on the courtier's life -- they all profess confidence in or thanks for a return to favor:

he is not ded that sometyme hath a fall
the Sonne retornth/that was vnder the clowd
and when fortune hath spitt oute all her gall / /
I trust good luck to me shalbe allowd (1-4; Harrier, 152)

ffyre that purgithe allthing that is vnclene
may hele / & hurt and if thes bene true
I trust sorntyme my harme may be my helthe
syns evry wo is Ioynid with some welth
( Venemus thornes, 5-8; Harrier, 173)

fortune likewise that often tornis
hath made me now the moost happy
( After great stormes, 3-4; Harrier, 182)

Though falsehood go about
Of crime me to accuse,
At length I do not doubt
But truth shall me excuse.
( Mistrustful minds, 5-8; Rebholz, 174)

These poems differ from "Who list his wealth" not simply on the likelihood of vindication, but on the power of truth or innocence, a more fundamental question. So far as this is the case, they raise again the paradoxical character of Wyatt's verse. As John Kerrigan comments, "A Wyatt poem is typically plain (advertising the sincerity of its self in a world that is otherwise) and extraordinarily opaque (reserving that self to itself)" (7). In the case of Who list his wealth, Kerrigan points out, there is no certainty of its biographical reference, no way to get past "the secretively self-centered poem's defiance of us" (8). The problem, however, goes beyond the "defiance" offered by this particular poem. Juxtaposing all these poems with their distinct attitudes raises once again the question of "self-fashioning," the possibility that all the poems are performances, enactments of stances, and that the Wyatt who seems to speak in a whisper of his dreads is no more real than the bluff, confident Wyatt of "He is not ded." While the juxtaposition does yield the opaque, self-masking Wyatt we are familiar with, it does not at first glance define a central cluster of ideas about truth or specify that those ideas imply a layered speaking, with surface content masking an underlying insinuated content.

But on closer examination, these poems do display such layering, through echoes of Wyatt's usages elsewhere and through their own ironic undertones. In He is not ded the word "trust" (line 4) reverberates with Wyatt's other uses of it in contexts that reveal the folly of trust. In "Venemus thornes" the same word, coupled with the phrase "if thes bene true" (my emphasis), conveys a palpable ironic reservation. These two poems are translated from Serafino, and comparison with the originals underscores the point: no equivalent for "if thes bene true" appears in the Italian, and both poems use the verb "spero." I hope would be the more normal translation for "spero"; the substitution of "trust" cuts two ways, making the emotion more definite than in the original but also loading it with all the freight of Wyatt's other uses of the term: to speak of trust in a Wyatt poem is almost to predict betrayal.13 In "After great stormes" Wyatt's twist comes at the end, where he notes that others are not as fortunate as he and hints at the precariousness of his own good fortune:

And I that have felt of your paine
shall pray to god continuelly
to make your hope your helth retayne
and me also the most happy / (17-20; Harrier, 183)

Of these poems only Mistrustful minds, a distinctly minor effort, has no perceptible ironic subtext. The others hint faintly at what Who list his wealth states directly -- directly, yet not openly, for Wyatt appears to have restricted the circulation of this palpably dangerous text.14

Wyatt's erotic and career lyrics, then, establish a pattern of layered attitudes toward truth and its efficacy. This is the pattern played out in the three satires, which, additionally, add a further layer of meaning when read against one another. Here, Wyatt's examination of truth and its relation to power occurs through layering both within and among the three poems.

A discussion of Wyatt's "layering" in the three satires can conveniently begin with those amiable creatures, the country mouse and the towny mouse. In the second satire's retelling of the Æsopian/Horatian fable,15 the country mouse approaches her town sister's door "by stelth":

And with her foote anon she scrapeth full fast
thothre for fere durst not well scarse appere
of every noyse so was the wretche agast
At last she asked softly who was there
and in her langage as well as she cowd
pepe quod the othre syster I ame here
Peace quod the towny mowse why spekest thou so lowde
and by the hand she toke her fayer & well
welcom quod she my sister by the Roode
( My mothers maydes37-45; Harrier, 175)16

Her pleasure is short-lived, for the cat interrupts their meal:

the towney mowse fled she knowe whether to goo
thothre had no shift but wonders sore
fferd of her lift / at home she wyshed her tho
and to the dore alas as she did skipp
thevyn it would lo and eke her chaunce was so
At the threshold her sely fote did tripp
and ere she myght recover it again
the traytour Catt had caught her by the hipp
And made her there against her will remain
that had forgotten her poure suretie & rest
for semyng welth wherein she thought to rayne
(59-69; Harrier, 175-6)

The fable itself has received less critical attention than the moral reflections that follow it. The fable deals, of course, with the folly of greed, but it also tells another tale told over and over in Wyatt:

so fourth she goeth trusting of all this welth
with her syster / her part so for to shape. (32-3; Harrier, 175)

The central situation of a character entrapped because of naive hopes reminds us of Wyatt's obsessive concern with betrayed trust. More specifically -- given the apparent composition of the satires at some time after Wyatt's 1536 imprisonment and rustication -- it may suggest the fate of Anne Boleyn and her accused lovers.17

The betrayal of trust is usually, in Wyatt, a betrayal in courtly love, and there are overtones of the courtly love situation in the fable. The timid scratching of the country mouse, the secret partaking of forbidden pleasures, and the sudden appearance of the cat remind us, though in a comic fable context, of the often exaggerated accounts of court sexuality that circulated in such accounts as the Crónica del Rey Henrico, in which gentlemen insinuate themselves into bedrooms not their own only to have the lady excuse herself and go upstairs, where she is found subsequently with a groom.18 Indeed, the country mouse's foot scraping the door contains a faint echo -- just the trace of a footfall -- of another well-known poetic foot in Wyatt, the naked one in his chamber ( They fle from me, 2; Harrier, 131). At a different level, the reflections following the fable proper -- "And blynde the gyde anon owte of the way / goeth gyde and all in seking quyete liff" (73-4; Harrier, 176) -- recall in feeling a lament (possibly by Wyatt) over Boleyn's associates: "To think what hap did thee so lead or guide, / Whereby thou hast both thee and thine undone" ( In mourning wise, 26-7; Rebholz, 255).19 And finally, the fate of the country mouse, whom we last see "caught . . . by the hipp" and made to remain "against her will" (66-7), suggests a scene of imprisonment. While not decisive separately, together these points seem suggestive enough to have been read topically by contemporaries. Patterson Fables of Power traces from Lydgate an "English tradition of political fabling as a form of resistance to unjust power relations," which competed with the "conventional and conservative notion that the content of fables was merely ethical" (47). Patterson does not discuss Wyatt as a fabulist, but her detection of an 

echo of Lydgate The Churl and the Bird in Sighs are my food makes it clear that he was familiar with the tradition she has in mind.20

I am not contending that the entrapment scene in the fable strictly represents Boleyn's fall; indeed, if at one level the trapped country mouse would represent Boleyn, at another level she would have to represent the accused lovers, and at a third level Wyatt himself, who suffered imprisonment presumably because of his association with Boleyn. Rather than being directly allegorical, the scene, when read with contemporary events in mind, seems to refer to the danger and slipperiness of court intrigues in a way that alludes to the executions, yet uses the form of a beast fable both to disguise the reference and to broaden it beyond specific commentary. The fact that the mouse's downfall comes when she "tripp[s]" reminds us of Wyatt's Seneca paraphrase on the "slipper top / Of court's estates." Even more telling is the reference to the cat as "traytour." In the poem's fictive context, it makes no sense to apply this epithet to an animal acting according to nature, but as an extratextual reference it could apply to several of the actors in Anne's downfall, most consistently to Henry himself; indeed, the cat as king is a conventional identification in fable (Thomson, 239). Overall, despite the fable's whimsical tonality, the description of the "sely" mouse surprised by heaven or "chaunce" and brought low by the "traytour Catt" suggests the same helplessness in the face of terror and violence as in "Wit helpeth not . . . / Of innocency to plead or prate" or "Innocency is all the hope I have."

Critical tradition regards the mouse's fate as condign punishment. Thomson, for example, argues that by mentioning the country mouse's fright, "Wyatt is again stressing the mouse's free will, her responsibility for what happens" (261). On one level Wyatt does take such a stand. Yet even on the surface, this reading does not seem entirely adequate for a fable in which -- unlike in Æsop and Horace -- the mouse goes to town because of starvation. More fundamentally, this reading stays on the surface, confining itself to the tale's morally conventional, overt meaning and ignoring a second, contrary level of reading that suggests an amoral, anarchic universe ruled by inscrutable "hevyn" and unpredictable "chaunce" (line 63). Wyatt was no rube; he knew and presumably accepted "how it is," including that Boleyn had lovers and that in the existing court system her execution was legitimate. But this does not mean he was incapable of sympathy for her or her supposed, perhaps actual, lovers, or of rage and resentment against the equally culpable "mice" (rats) who knew when and how to get clear. The second-level point of Wyatt's fable, contrary to the moralism of the first, is that the world is not divided into guilty and innocent, but into knowing and "sely" -- a word that combines the senses of blessed, innocent, defenseless, foolish, and simple.

But if this is the case, the most corrosive aspect of the fable is the escape of the town mouse. This takes on a charge all its own: the mouse who "fled she knowe whether to goo" suggests all those who, in the downfall of a major power figure, are knowing, nimble, cynical, and quick enough to change sides or simply make themselves scarce. Wyatt does not need to mention such people specifically for us to know, from our own experience, that they exist.

Let us now view the three satires together. As with Wyatt's work generally, two interpretive traditions exist with them. One finds in them powerful, perhaps definitive expressions of Wyatt's integrity, whether derived from settled conviction, a reaction to his court experiences, or some combination of these. Thus to Southall "the criterion of inwardness . . . is brought in the satires to the juxtaposition of two ways of life and to the establishment of a preference for that which embraces naturalness even in poverty over that of courtly hypocrisy" ( Courtly Maker, 98). For Greene these poems embody the "unassailable poise" and "firm moral style" of a speaker "confident of his unblinking estimates, registering depravity, hypocrisy, and suffering without hysteria, [and] strong in his independence" (263, 262). New Historicist readings, to the contrary, recognize the strength of this voice but find it an ideological one that slurs over the truth and is challenged by submerged tonalities that threaten its integrity. Greenblatt, for example, taking the intended message of "A spending Hand" to be the acceptance of "honest poverty and occasional adversity" as posed in the final lines, concludes that the message requires "forget[ting] everything that the preceding lines have implied"; but, he goes on, Bryan's presence in the poem, if nothing else, threatens to undo this very forgetting -- a paradox Greenblatt can explain only by invoking Wyatt's "extraordinary intelligence, . . . [his] need to give vent in however indirect a form to his perception of his situation" ( Renaissance Self-Fashioning, 134-5). Greenblatt's assumption that the contradictory meanings which surface in this poem result from a difficulty in fully "forgetting" is typical of his and similar approaches. Wyatt is "only too aware that he has doffed his mask" (Panja, 355), he is "defensive" (Foley, 59, 63, 66, 68, 69), and "what should be solid and unambiguous . . . threatens to crack apart" ( Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, 135).21

I wish instead to treat this double- or triple-voiced character of the satires as a deliberate construction, both on the level of the individual poems and on that of the poems as a set that comment on one another.

Overtly, each of the satires poses a distinct but related problem of the life of government service: sycophancy and false counsel in the first, ambition in the second, corruption in the third. Each poses its own distinct solution -- withdrawal from court, inner freedom, honest service -- and each solution is undercut by internal discordances. New Historicist critics 

have noted some of them, always with the implication that they are inadvertent. Stephen Foley and Shormishtha Panja, for instance, have both noticed an unspoken longing for court beneath the rustic aloofness of the first satire, Myne own Iohn poyntz. Foley points to Wyatt's acknowledgment of the "clogg [that] doeth hang yet at my hele" (line 86) as undermining the poem's surface composure: "Wyatt has claimed all along that his own independent moral judgment is what "makes" him withdraw homeward, but this claim overlaps with the suggestion that it has been royal judgment that 'makes' him stay there" (62). Panja argues that the topos of rural withdrawal itself was seen by contemporaries as a pose, as evidenced by an aphorism of Francesco Guicciardini: "Those who say they have voluntarily relinquished power and position for love of peace and quiet . . . as soon as they are offered a change to return to the former life . . . seize it with the same fury that fire seizes dry or oily things" (356).22

Though such moments have been read as Wyatt's blunders, they can also be read as Wyatt's art. Guicciardini's epigram surely represented a fairly common piece of worldly wisdom. Let us assume, in addition, that Wyatt could anticipate that his first readers would know the circumstances of his rustication. In this case, for an adroit reader Myne owne Iohn poyntz would create its own subtext. On one level the poem would offer only slightly uncomfortable country pleasures as an antidote to court falseness; on a second, by deliberately indulging in a discredited commonplace while inserting quiet reminders of the limits on the speaker's freedom, it would criticize the antidote as inadequate. Such a procedure allows Wyatt to present a blistering attack on the vices of court and a defense of his own integrity in a genre that was familiar, socially safe, and not taken very seriously. At the same time, it allows him to suggest that simple withdrawal from political life is not a real solution to the problem the poem identifies but to do so in a way recognizable only to those capable of reading below the surface.

More so than Myne owne Iohn poyntz, My mothers maydes -the mouse fable already discussed in part -- appears to break apart in the middle, both formally, in the transition from tale to moral, and substantively, in the thematic contrasts between the two. Subliminally but strongly, the fable suggests moral anarchy, the ability of the knowing and agile to get by while the naive are destroyed. Yet its conclusion -- "[she] had forgotten her poure suretie & rest / for semyng welth wherin she thought to rayne" (68-9) -- states a conventional lesson, as does the moral discussion that follows. The second part, then, seems to try to put a lid on the tensions raised by the first. Nevertheless the second section does contain reminders of the world suggested in the first. The opening of this part --" Alas my poyngz how men do seke the best / and fynde the

wourst by errour as they stray" (70-1; Harrier, 176) -- seems capable of "too broad" a reading: people striving to be good can meet disaster through innocent "errour." In a moment the expected meanings appear: "the best" means "the quyete liff" (an echo of Wyatt's translation of Plutarch, Quyete of Mynde), and the "errour" is seeking it through wealth, power, or lust rather than within oneself (74-99). Yet momentarily the lament for those who seek the best has seemed to apply as much to the "honest Wyatt" persona as to unscrupulous courtiers and to remind us that the mouse was not wicked but only "sely." Reading the conventional meaning back into the opening phrases does not fully erase the first impression. Moreover, even the conventional moral has disturbing overtones if the fable is read topically: it suggests that Boleyn and her accused lovers may have been guilty only of "errour" and further that honest error can lead to downfall, which a better knowledge of the back passages of the "town house" might avert.

Overtly, then, the fable presents a possibly ambiguous situation to which the commentary gives a conventional gloss; like some of the court lyrics, this poem opens on one plane and seeks closure on a safer one. Tonally, too, the voice that recalls the mother's maids and addresses John Poins remains outside the fable's ambiguities. Yet to take this voice as the satire's true speech is to ignore the "mood-voice dichotomy" found in many Wyatt poems, the existence of a disturbed underlying mood constituted by the poem's overall construction and distinct from the confident surface voice (Panja, 348, 354-61). Additionally, while the moral provides a comment on the fable, the fable also comments by implication on the moral, so that at a second level the safe moral itself is called into question. The commentary, for example, invokes the "uneasy lies the head" topos to argue that true quiet of mind is to be preferred even to kingship: "tho thy hed were howpt with gold / sergeaunt with mace hawbert sword nor knyff / Cannot repulse the care that folowe should" (77-9; Harrier, 176). But the lines unavoidably remind us of Anne's "hed" and the officers and instruments that removed it, and so raise again the fable's topical associations and its more worldly law: the survival of the seamy and fraudulent.

That is the topic of "A spending Hand." The satire, as we understand, denies the worldly-wise recommendation of corruption that it seems to affirm; the seemingly naive persona of Bryan is the one we are expected to identify with, and do. Bryan's statement of the ideal of service -- "Yet woll I serve my prynce my lord & thyn / and let theim lyve to fede the panche that list / so I may fede to lyve both me & myn" (25-7; Harrier, 184) -- has a ringing quality that lifts it out of its satiric context and seems that of personal statement. Indeed, the tone is the same as in "Tagus fare well," which also seems to voice a personal credo: "My kyng my Contry alone for whome I lyve / of myghty love the winges for this me gyve" (7-8;

Harrier, 211). In contrast to the first two satires, then, A spending Hand affirms the value of government service, in a way that seems very much Wyatt's own. It serves, further, to raise the issue of truth and its uses:

who so can seke to plese
shall pourchase frendes where trowght shall but offend
ffle therefore trueth it is boeth welth and ese
for tho that trouth of every man hath prayse
full nere that wynd goeth trouth in great misese
(32-6; Harrier, 184)

We have no trouble separating " Wyatt's" advice from Wyatt's truth -truth does go in misease (36), but that does not convince us to flee it for wealth and ease (34). We do not hesitate to reject, with "Bryan," the speaker's advice to be corrupt or to take the speaker's final bitter admonition to accept "honest pouertie . . . And for thy trouth surntyme aduersitie" (86-8) in a positive sense.

But several factors complicate the seeming simplicity of the final advice. The first is the actual character of the fictive addressee, Sir Francis Bryan. As several readers have noted, the real Bryan was a practitioner of most of the specific vices that his fictitious self rejects, including career marriage, sycophancy, and procuring ( Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, 135; Panja, 358-9; Foley, 74-5). David Starkey has filled out our knowledge of Bryan's character and historical role, noting that in addition to his vices he embodied certain aspects of the courtier ideal: he was cultured, well-mannered, and frank, daring to "boldly speak to the king's Grace the plainness of his mind," in the words of a contemporary ( Intimacy and Innovation, 102). Starkey considers Bryan's frankness as the real target in the third satire, which he reads as a critique of Castiglione's myth of the courtier as honest counselor: the point of the poem is that "in most respects Bryan's character was bad enough for him to be a thoroughly successful courtier," yet "[u]nfortunately . . . he spoke his mind, and this glimmer of virtue . . . would destroy him" ( The Court, 238).23

Attractive as this gloss is, Starkey does not show that Bryan's downfall was due to open speaking, and indeed the kind of unbridled speech to Henry that Bryan was famed for is not what Wyatt means by "trouth." As Starkey shows elsewhere, Bryan was an opportunist who "had swung wildly from being an enthusiastic supporter of Anne during her ascendancy to a determined opponent during her decline" ( Intimacy and Innovation, 114).24 In short, he was the type of a non-truthspeaker -indeed a towny mouse. Either Wyatt is truly "forgetting" all this, or the true point of Bryan's presence in the poem lies precisely in the double meaning that becomes possible by giving Wyatt's assumed virtues to a

character who in reality was an opportunist and timeserver. If, at the surface level, Wyatt intends to idealize himself in the character of Bryan, then the real character of Bryan is a warning that the issue is more complicated. It serves as a warning that the positions of the fictional Bryan are not to be taken at face value, that the real message is something else. The point then is not that speaking his mind destroyed Bryan, but that such behavior would destroy Wyatt.

A second indication that the poem is really concerned with dissimulation rather than openness lies in the mode of speech with which A spending Hand begins:

A spending Hand that alway powreth owte
had nede to have a bringer in as fast
and on the stone that still doeth tourne abowte
There groweth no mosse these proverbis yet do last
reason hath set theim in so sure a place
that lenght of yeres their force can never wast
(1-6; Harrier, 183)

The proverbs function as more than homely truths that are misused by the Wyatt character. In the poem's development, the first becomes the basis for "Wyatt's" plea in favor of corruption; the second is turned into an argument against government service and in favor of retirement, an idea it is the poem's actual intention to rebut. Yet the proverbs themselves are not being questioned; their place is sure. What the poem does is to exalt a certain mode of speech as true and lasting, then to systematically show how this kind of speaking can be used for corrupt purposes. In doing so it shows that its own speech is not to be trusted, that "trouth" is not what is said to be true but what is found by looking behind the surfaces of language.

The final instance of layered speech in "A spending Hand" occurs in the closing lines, already referred to, which recommend accepting "for thy trouth sumtyme aduersitie" (88). This statement has a quite different force if it is read on the surface, where the poem's somewhat jocular tone encourages us to understand it as mere occasional inconvenience, or with a full awareness that in Wyatt's life (and not only his) "sumtyme aduersitie" refers to imprisonment and the danger of execution. We do not merely supply this sense from knowledge of Wyatt's biography. The phrase itself is a signpost that points silently to other Wyatt poems on adversity. Two of these indeed echo the word "sumtyme": He is not ded that sometyme hath a fall; I trust somtyme my harme may be my helthe (see citations above). In pointing to this group of Wyatt poems, the "adversity" line points also to their divergent views on truth -- as

shield ( Mistrustful minds) or as none, even as enemy ( "Who list his wealth and ease retain"). It alludes, then, to these poems' uncertainty about what speaking the truth may bring. Sumtyme aduersitie describes, too, the country mouse caught by the "traytour Catt," while "honest pouertie" recalls her rural starvation; thus the couplet notes the unpalatable choices she faces and should also remind us of the unequal success of the two mice in escaping peril. Hence, it points in the contrary directions of luck and skill; if the "sely" mouse was overcome by "hevyn" and "chaunce" -- and if this suggests that other Wyatt recommendation, "Bear low, therefore, give God the stern" -- the town mouse escaped through skill, not honesty. The reference to "aduersitie," then, negates its own cheery surface and opens up conflicting perspectives on how to meet adversity.

Finally, as Wyatt has told us before, a crucial skill is to be able to ask "What vaileth trouth?" and to understand the implied answer: "I must goo worke I se by craft & art." Taken in isolation, the ending to "A spending Hand" appears straightforward, conventional, unexceptionable: speak truth and accept the consequences. Taken in conjunction with the lyrics of adversity and the second satire's tale of the mice in adversity, it raises the issue of craft and craftiness. Out of all these poems emerges a second level of meaning, not overtly stated but visible in their conjunction: while the poet may empathize with the "sely" country mice, he is determined not to be among them. He means to be a survivor and therefore to speak behind veils.

Each of the satires, then, exists on (at least) two levels. There is an overt, relatively conventional satire based on classical and contemporary models, focusing on such topics as the sycophancy and corruption of court life and the follies of ambition. And there is a hidden, far more radical satire addressing the linked questions of whether it is possible to speak the truth directly and whether survival depends on truth or -- as the poems suggest latenter -- on wit, canniness, and ability to maneuver.

When the satires are considered together, their layered quality is reinforced; they form a dramatic enactment in which each criticizes the solutions overtly recommended by the others. In "Myne owne Iohn poyntz", as we know, the overt solution is country retirement. This solution is criticized in My mothers maydes through the alternative solution -- inward peace -- and more directly in A spending Hand with the rejection of the barnyard and its swine who "chaw the tordes molded on the grownd" (19). In turn the solutions of both the first two satires are criticized by the reaffirmation of the life of service in A spending Hand. But this solution in its turn has been nullified already: when the poems are read together, the powerful "yet woll I serve my prynce" is attacked by the first satire's equally powerful I cannot frame my tune to fayne

(19) -- equally powerful, and yet deceptive, for Wyatt is always doing just that. More strongly than anything within A spending Hand itself, the justifications for leaving court in Myne owne Iohn poyntz remind us that speaking truth in court is impossible, that "for thy trouth sumtyme aduersitie" is not even on a minimal level a statement about giving honest counsel but one about the terrible consequences of truthsaying.

When all three poems are considered together, it is apparent that the long string of feignings that the speaker rejects in the first -- too easily, as that poem's subtext and the later poems both show -- are what save the town mouse in the second and what appear as ironic recommendations in the third. A dramatic progress occurs by which the idea of framing one's tune to feign becomes more and more central and by which we finally realize that the third satire does not offer a solution, but a dilemma: "frame your tune" or get out, losing influence and risking imprisonment and death. Together, the three poems form a negative criticism of the social "world" alluded to in the final lines of A spending Hand -- "in this worould now litle prosperite" (90) -- and an exposure of the weakness of 'trouth." There is no positive solution, in the sense of a formula that allows service to the state and the speaking of truth; the solution is a series of contingent, qualified ideas that are implied rather than stated: "Yet woll I serve my prynce," swallowing the guff and telling the truth only by subterfuge, by "craft & art."

The country mouse and town mouse define the issue of truth in Wyatt. This is so in two distinct, though related, ways. First, it is essential to the satires -- and much of the rest of Wyatt's poetry -- that they function on two levels, that the underlying targets remain obscure and layered. To write more openly would have been to act as a country mouse, and Wyatt is very much a town mouse, determined to survive in the world of power where only town mice can. He died not as the king's prisoner but on the king's service, and all his formidable "craft & art" were employed to this end.

This Wyatt -- tough-minded, aggressive, canny -- emerges from the defense speech he prepared (but may not have delivered) in 1541. The speech sheds a notable light on Wyatt's poetic procedures. Wyatt, in brief, was defending himself against charges of disloyal speech and treasonable contact with the king's enemies (Cardinal Pole). He answers the charges in a way that is legalistic and contemptuous at the same time:

Reherse the lawe, declare, my lordes, I beseke you, the meaninge therof. Am I a traytor by cawse I spake with the kinges traytor? No,

not for that, for I may byd hym "avaunte, traytor" or "defye hym, traytor" . . . .

What I mente by yt [sending an emissary to Pole] ys declared vnto you: it was lyttell for my avayle, yt was to vndermynde hym, yt was to be a spye ouer hym. Yt was to lerne an enimmies councell . . . .

The confidens put in my affares is for you to acquyte me. And yt is an nawghtie fere yf any man have any suche, to thynke a queste dare not acquyte a man of treason when theie thynke hym clere; for yt were a fowle sclaundere to the kynges maieste. God be thanked, he is no tyrant . . . . He will but his lawes and his lawes with mercie. . . .

. . . put that I were the naughtieste ranck traytor that ever the grounde bare, dothe any man thynke that I were so folysshe, so voyde of wytt, that I wolde have tolde Bonar and Haynes [his accusers] . . . ? . . . I [am] not so veri a fole . . . (Muir, 190, 194, 208, 197)

Wyatt here both advertises and practices his approach to truth. He makes clear that he knows how to use spies -- to practice deception to learn the truth. He rehearses the law, but knowingly, not naively: on the right to acquit he offers what he has good reason to know is at best a half-truth about Henry but one that no one will dare contravene. Knowing truth and conscience are not enough, he uses a layered, lawyer's defense: he is not guilty, but assuming arguendo that he is . . . and crossing from the assumed territory in which treason is unthinkable to the real political territory he shares with his judges, in which anyone may think treason, Wyatt argues that the very possibility of guilt acquits him: he would not be so stupid as to tell those people. It is a bravura performance in which truth exists on different levels at once, levels Wyatt negotiates with ease. As such, it both demonstrates and comments on the different levels of speech that exist in the poems, particularly the satires.

But the country mouse and town mouse do not merely emblematize the layers of speech in Wyatt's poems; in addition, the acts of concealment that they represent are the subject matter of much of Wyatt's verse. This is true in relation to both their political meaning and their aesthetic form.

Politically, the satires take place, as David Starkey has argued, on the common ground also occupied by More Utopia and Castiglione Courtier, that of the dilemma between the court and humanism, between service to the state and devotion to truth ( Starkey, The Court, 234). The first satire's long list of courtly requisites -- cloaking the truth, calling craft counsel, wresting the law, etc. ( Myne owne Iohn poyntz, 20, 33, 34) -implicitly endorses Hithlodaeus's view (in Book I of Utopia) that "there is

no place for philosophy in the councils of kings" and rejects as fantasy More's alternative -- "You must strive to influence policy indirectly, urge your case vigorously but tactfully, and thus what you cannot turn to good, you may at least make as little bad as possible" (35, 36). What is new in Wyatt's treatment is the recasting that occurs between the first and third satires, whereby the traditional opposition between philosophy and state service is accepted but not resolved, and the veiling of truth is accepted as the cost of the ideal of service.25 The third satire, and also "Tagus fare well," speak eloquently of the ideal; the pattern by which the first satire comments on the third speaks by implication of the costs. Wyatt's uneasy answer to the court service dilemma, then, agrees to lie, while the poems conspire with the penetrating reader to make this clear. And it is exactly this emphasis on the perils of truth that constitutes Wyatt's most radical criticism of the court world he inhabits.

Aesthetically, the satires have been read either as standing firm on their own surface content -- advertising personal integrity as the answer to courtly intrigue -- or as inadvertently revealing the career ambitions and unresolved resentments beneath this surface. Neither view is tenable -- the first because the satires themselves criticize it, the second because the poems really demand not an act of "forgetting" (Greenblatt) but one of remembering: they advance a set of mutually exclusive solutions which they criticize by the comments they make within themselves and upon one another. Once this pattern is perceived, it is seen to depend not on unconscious slippages but on that purposive ordering of language that we call art. Hence, through "veiling" his truth Wyatt shows that a personal core of integrity exists, that truth matters and is of value in his own life, and yet his emphasis lies elsewhere -- on the need to keep that core shifting and elusive, to conceal its workings.

To return to the debates provoked by criticisms of the idea of the autonomous self, Wyatt's poems indeed confirm that the self is not constituted apart from its social engagements. Leaving aside the erotics of his poems, which has not been my concern, Wyatt's identity is powerfully constructed on the basis of government service, within the world of court intrigue that he does not, indeed, see as the only possible arena but that he knowingly affirms as the most worthwhile. The game of service and power is the one he knows and wills. But neither is Wyatt's integrity reducible to mere mask. To the idea that the self is mere "hologram" (Veeser), that subjectivity is constituted in "the necessary failures to produce a stable subject" (Gallagher), the poems give answer with their extraordinarily tenacious acts of concealment, tacit disclosure, and clandestine social criticism of a court that makes impossible the kind of truth they seem to affirm. The poems thus explode the facile opposition between a humanist-romantic transcendent self capable of criticizing

society because it is presocially constituted and a New Historicist self incapable of genuine criticism because it consists only of successive self-fashionings. They reveal, instead, a self socially constructed yet ultimately consolidated as a stubbornly cohesive entity. Out of all the contradictions of its society -- within the court world between the demands of truth and camouflage, and between that world and the world of ethics and precept drawn from religious and classical sources that are also part of its social construction -- this socially constructed self fashions a hidden integrity out of its adherence to and veiled criticism of a corrupt system.

In so doing, Wyatt defines not just a Tudor, early modern self, but an early version of a recognizably modern self: the real-world self constituted in social systems that reward deceit and concealment. In the decade following the collapse of one of those systems, in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR, we should not need to be reminded that they have been characterized, among other things, by the construction of noncompliant selves behind stances of conformity. This consideration enlarges the bearing of my discussion. New Historicism originated in a period of the apparent solidification of systems that demanded the limitless malleability of self. To some extent it bears the marks of this birth; it accepts too easily the idea of the social as an all-enveloping matrix in which the self is the determinate result of dominant (and perhaps also other) discourses. We should now know, from recent history, that this model is over-simple. Not only individuals but -- far more importantly -- large social groups in the onetime "Soviet bloc" performed acts of concealment and covert social self-definition that weakened the ruling systems and undercut the power of official ideology.

These points define the larger significance of the debate over Wyatt's "truth." Wyatt's speech testifies finally to the possibility of outwitting the censor and hence to the inability of systems that seek the full domination of culture to achieve it. The story of dominant discourses has been told, challenged, and concessively defended. What needs to be recognized is the formation of discourses that are resistant, even through self-concealment, and this is the tale told by the town mouse's survival to tell the tale of town and country mouse.

State University of New York Old Westbury, New York

1. Hangen, Concordance, 133-6, 473-7. The concordance is keyed to the out-dated 1914Foxwell edition but is reliable for rough-and-ready purposes. When one excludes poems from Foxwell that appear in section 2 of Rebholz's edition

(those attributed to Wyatt after the sixteenth century) unless reliably assignable to Wyatt, and adds poems not in Foxwell but in Rebholz's section 1, 51 out of 168 poems use "truth," "true," or "truly," and another 32 use "false," "faith," "trust," and their derivatives.

2. Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, 142, 141, 135-6. For the approaches discussed in this paragraph see the below-cited works of Mason (humanism), Southall (inner man), Friedman and Daalder (Senecanism), Kerrigan and Panja (religious values), and Greene (irony); Greenblatt, Foley, Halasz and, in part, Crewe (New Historicism).

3. For partial critiques of New Historicist assumptions in this area, see Sinfield, Power and Ideology ( 1985 ), and Norbrook, Life and Death of Renaissance Man ( 1989 ). Annabel Patterson Shakespeare and the Popular Voice ( 1989 ) is an implicit polemic on this point, as are parts of her other work. Thomas Sorge "The Failure of Orthodoxy in Coriolanus" ( 1987 ) explores ideological heterodoxy in the belly fable central to that play. Useful reformulations of the New Historicist position, some of which I discuss here, are found in contributions by Greenblatt, Louis A. Montrose, Catherine Gallagher, and Aram Veeser to Veeser collection The New Historicism ( 1989 ).

4. For Patterson's use of this term, see Pastoral, passim. As my borrowing suggests, I find fruitful Patterson's reading of much poetry composed in Renaissance semi-absolutist regimes as "encoded" social commentary, "a system of communication in which ambiguity becomes a creative and necessary instrument" ( Censorship, 11). Patterson briefly suggests the applicability of her approach to Wyatt (18-9) but does not discuss him in detail.

5. Harrier, 98. Poems in the Egerton manuscript (E) are quoted from Richard Harrier's edited transcript, out of a preference for original spelling and, particularly, for E's very sparse punctuation, which preserves ambiguities erased by the heavy punctuation in all modern editions. (I have, however, spelled out the scribal abbreviations reproduced in Harrier and have ignored his use of italics for truncated e.) Poems not in E are quoted from R. A. Rebholz's modernized edition in preference to Muir and Thomson's textually less accurate (and editorially punctuated) old-spelling edition. The resulting inconsistency in quotation style stems unavoidably from a deficiency in the available editions. Departures from either of these sources are noted as they occur.

6. In line 2, I adopt the correction in E "whiche pites," listed by Harrier in his apparatus, rather than the original "with pite," which he prints.

7. In a different context Alexandra Halasz notes the ambiguity of likening David to a reverential statue "made as by craft" ( Psalms, 308): in contrast to Aretino's "arte," the term "craft" indicates "the problematic nature of Wyatt's effort: the word carries the possibility of deceit even as the lines make a poetic as well as a sacred claim for the songs" (336).

8. The poem is found in the Harleian manuscript (H78), and in slightly different form in Tottel (T). I have restored H78 and T's "have" in line 6 in preference to Rebholz's emendation "save" (apparently first suggested by H. A. Mason, Editing, 102), since "Malice assaulted [him] that righteousness should have" seems to me not an unintelligible reading. The poem is usually thought to refer to Wyatt's 1541 imprisonment, but all such references to biographical background should be

understood as tentative. In this case, the reasons given by Muir and others for the date (Wyatt's paraphrase of lines 7-8 in his defense statement that year) are not conclusive, but there is no reason to reject the date either.

9. Bryan's use in Wyatt's poetry is further discussed below in the context of the third satire.

10. Surrey's appropriation of the image of Caesar's hypocritical tears to refer to Wyatt's enemies, in one of his own elegies, shows that such poems could be read in political or career senses; Tottel, by printing Surrey's poem as well as Wyatt's, obliquely allows such a reading (Surrey, 97; Rollins, 27).

11. The primary source is Seneca Phaedra, lines 1123-40, but see also Martin Buzacott , A Boethian Analogue. For discussion see Southall, Courtly Maker, 45-6, 59, 68-9, and Love, Fortune and My Mind, 22-4; Foley, 42-5; Kerrigan, 8; Thomson, 42. On its authenticity, see Harrier, 72-3. In line 2, Muir and Thomson read "then." Both Rebholz and Joost Daalder, Sir Thomas Wyatt: Collected Poems, have "them," as established by Mason, Editing, 48, 56.

12. This poem along with several others, including My mothers maydes, has been the subject of debate over the nature and source of Wyatt's stoicism. See Donald M. Friedman, The 'Thing' in Wyatt's Mind and Joost Daalder, Wyatt and 'Liberty' and Wyatt and 'Liberty': A Postscript, all criticizing Raymond Southall's emphasis on the impact of the "bell tower" experience and arguing for a philosophically based Senecanism; and Southall's reply, 'Love, Fortune and my mind,' esp. 18, 24-5. See also Daalder, Seneca and Wyatt's Second Satire.

13. For the Italian texts, see Thomson, 227-8. Thomson's commentary does not note the changes mentioned here. For Wyatt's debt to Serafino in general, see Thomson, chap. 7.

14. Who list his wealth is found only in the manuscript of Wyatt's close friend Sir George Blage; the other lyrics in this group appear in two to five manuscripts each, and three are in Tottel. We know too little about the circulation of Wyatt's manuscripts to be certain of what all this means, yet it seems that Wyatt or an associate gave Who list his wealth to Blage and that Wyatt did not enter it in his own manuscript, E. A desire to preserve the poem where it might not easily be found would be one explanation.

15. The fullest discussion of the classical and contemporary sources, including Langland, Henryson, and Skelton, and Wyatt's departures from them in all three satires is Thomson, 238-70; for some further suggestions see Daalder, Seneca and Wyatt's Second Satire.

16. Harrier prints "madyes," apparently a misprint; all other old-spelling sources and commentaries print "maydes," and H. A. Mason's compilation of Muir and Thomson's errors does not list this as one ( Editing, 11).

17. On the dating of the satires, which remains conjectural, see Rebholz, 437-8, 449 (proposing 1536-1537 for all three, in agreement with Muir). H. A. Mason ( Humanism, 203-4) argues for 1536-1537 for the first two and 1541 for the third. For a third suggestion by David Starkey, see below.

18. See Muir (23), quoting a letter purportedly from Wyatt to the king, included in the Crónica. The spurious letter still gives an idea of what court sexual life was thought by some observers to be like.

19. The poem is in ms. B. Muir Life and Letters (33) attributes it tentatively to

Wyatt; his and Thomson's edition of the poems concedes that authorship is uncertain (401); Rebholz includes it in his section of doubtful poems; Harrier (72) regards it as spurious. In any case, it reflects a sentiment Wyatt might well have shared.

20. Patterson links the "clinking of fetters" to Lydgate Ryngyng of ffeteris makith no mery soun ( Fables, 45-6, 164n.). Lydgate's fable-poem concerns the problematics of patronage.

21. Panja finds a stable, nonironic voice in the Psalms, and so is writing partly to "refute" Greenblatt (347), but her treatment of the lyrics and satires agrees with his.

22. Panja's source is Frank Whigham, The Rhetoric of Elizabethan Suitors' Letters ( PMLA, 1981), 880n. Whigham cites the Maxims and Reflections (Ricordi), 44. See Whigham Ambition and Privilege ( 1984 ), 175, for a different contextualization of the quotation. Whigham's larger project, the identification and classification of the rhetorical modes of Elizabethan courtesy literature, bears interestingly on my discussion, though Whigham barely mentions Wyatt (in a footnote, 204). Among the tropes Whigham discusses, two have relevance to the satires: that of pastoral withdrawal, which he calls a "use of the pastoral structure to argue for a return to court"; and that of "devaluation," a "combative dismissal . . . of successful courtliness as corrupt" that Whigham sees as typical of "established courtiers who have been displaced" and "would-be courtiers who have fallen in the competition" (128, 169). As these comments suggest, Whigham approaches literary production throughout as the expression or sublimation of status concerns, much as New Historicists do for Wyatt. But this is contested terrain. Patrick Cullen and Annabel Patterson, among others, have shown the uses of pastoral for complex intellectual debate and coded political criticism ( Spenser, Marvell, and Renaissance Pastoral, 1970; Pastoral and Ideology, 1987); the courtlyservice debate, as I stress below, has an independent intellectual history regardless of how its tropes are used in individual instances. My further discussion of Wyatt and withdrawal can be assumed to comment on Whigham's analysis, but to discuss his treatment directly would lead away from my topic.

23. Starkey's argument depends in part on dating the poem to 1538-1539, when Wyatt was in contact with Bryan on diplomatic business in Spain. The dating is conjectural, especially since the position of the poem in E, which Starkey mentions as evidence, proves nothing: all three satires are grouped fairly close together (nos. 75, 78, and 86 in Harrier) well before the two poems that refer to Spain (nos. 105-6). Yet Starkey's suggestion is attractive, both because Bryan's strained finances in Spain provide a backdrop for the poem's financial satire (as Starkey notes) and because of the similarity in tone and mood between the satire's "yet woll I serve" and "Tagus fare well." In addition, Starkey's date would support my reading of the poem as referring to Wyatt's outspokenness (below).

24. In the crisis of 1536 he was a member of the "Aragonese" faction supporting Princess Mary, which Cromwell maneuvered out of influence as soon as their support against Boleyn was no longer needed ( Intimacy and Innovation, 1156). Boleyn was Bryan's cousin.

25. For Starkey's somewhat different interpretation see The Court, 234, 239.


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