A cloud of dark disdain

I was so excited recently to visit the exhibition from the National Portrait gallery on display at Montecute House in Somerset. A favourite poet of mine, Sir Thomas Wyatt was an Tudor adventurer, soldier and maybe spy, was on display – not the man himself, obviously but two portraits which I had only ever seen in books or on the internet.

I’ve written about Thomas several times… here is a post I shared a couple of years ago:

Thomas Wyatt must have experienced all sorts of weather on the sea as he was travelling to the different places he was sent as an ambassador for his king, Henry VIII, he must have known ‘sharp seas in winter’, and when you consider how small the ships were in those days, being on board a sixteenth century galley must have been very different from our travels. We are going to France soon, and we’ll be on a ferry crossing the Channel, a world away from what Thomas would have known. Thomas would have experienced the dangers of sea travel, maybe passing ‘tween rock and rock’ but this poem is a translation and interpretation of Petrarch’s sonnet 189, ‘Passa la nave mia colma d’oblio‘. In the modern jargon of TV chefs, Wyatt has put his own ‘twist’ on Petrarch:

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
‘Tween rock and rock; and eke mine en’my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every owre 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;
Wreathèd 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.
Sir Thomas Wyatt


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