Melinda Foshat

Poetry, Prose, Photography

An Analysis of “Farewell, Love”


The vision of love the poet expresses in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet, “Farewell, Love,” is one of cruel and unfortunate immobility, or lack of control. Love not only proves blinding to the poet, “in blind error” (l. 5), it also entangles him, “shall tangle me no more” (l. 2). Due to this mental and physical impairment, which inhibits him from taking action to protect himself, the poet is left vulnerable.

The poet accuses his lover’s “baited hooks” (l. 1) for having begotten such a trap. Hooks not only serve to catch entities, but they are also used to hang them. In this light, what may seem like innocent lover’s games may prove deadly for the poet’s or any man’s reputation. During this era, a man unable to neither think clearly nor act freely was sure to descend from social grace and therefore possess no control over his future. A man without authority over himself and his own destiny was not a man at all. In this manner, the poem addresses the concern that love, or the female lover, can threaten male identity and authority over her if he is not careful.

The term “hooks” may also be a deliberate reference to the curves of a woman, since the beauty of the female body often ensnares men. “Baited hooks” concocts fish imagery and fishermen commonly catch fish by baiting smaller ones. In a similar manner, man’s desires and identity can be baited against him to ultimately lead to his downfall. Descriptions of fish have notably been used throughout literature to represent the vagina, underscoring the concept of the female body’s natural ability to seduce men. This natural ability is no more than the “laws” (l. 1) of nature and natural attraction.

The phrase, “Thy sharp repulse, that pricketh ay so sore,” (l. 6) possesses strikingly sexual undertones. Words such as “sharp,” “pricketh” and “sore” are associated with the masculine penis and the deflowering of a virgin. Yet, it is these very words that are used to exhibit the female’s ability to also evoke pain and influence over her mate. In this sense, what once empowered a man can now strip him of his power.

In the end, the poet begs his lover to quit him and take with her the natural “authority” (l. 10) that her body posses over his so that he may be free from his hindering desire. He directs his mistress to “go trouble younger hearts…With idle youth go use thy property,” (l. 9-11). In a sense, the only property a woman could possess at this time is her own body, but even this notion is debatable since fathers and husbands believed to own their daughters and wives. Still, it is undeniable that the poet is demanding that his love go trouble other men. “And thereon spend thy many brittle darts” (l. 10) is certainly the poet’s attempt to direct his love’s cruel jabs upon other men. However, “many brittle darts” can also epitomize the many youthful and inexperienced penises in which the poet wishes her to have, or in other words, “spend.”

The poet ends by stating, “Me lusteth no longer rotten boughs to climb” (l. 14). Again, “boughs” may be a sexual innuendo since a stick or a tree’s trunk can easily represent the erect male. A rotten tree is none other than a tree bound to fall. Just as Adam fell due to Eve, the poet wishes to be at risk of falling no more. The word “climb” is a references to the poet’s wish to climb the social and hierarchal ladder, or to simply regain control over the female. By bidding farewell to his love, the poet is able to free himself from her authority and once again retrieve his male dominance over her. Inevitably, the poet wishes to take back control over his body and mind, climb the tree of knowledge, witness the clear and omnipotent view from the top, and finally possess an intellectual dominance over the female body.

© Copyright – All rights reserved – – February 4, 2013


Author: melindafoshat

Poet, dreamer, philosopher, photographer

23 thoughts on “An Analysis of “Farewell, Love”

  1. Fascinating and in depth look at all the metaphors and allegory in this poem

  2. Thanks. Now I’m going to reread that poem.

  3. Very interesting. many points of departure from this essay but I wonder about the phrase “A man without authority over himself and his own destiny is quite frankly not a man at all”Hmm. what does that actually mean. What about men in prison pr the army, subject to others commands. What about the girls? Is a woman without authority over herself and her own destiny quite frankly not a woman?

  4. That line is relevant in regards to 16th century philosophy and its social and gender idealism.

  5. The curves of a woman,can be hooked with catch of Love and make blind with Ecstasy Its Awsome. All the Best
    Sreenivas Desabhatla

  6. This is very cool – as cooling as a fish basking in a sunny stream of cool, flowing water. If I’m not wrong, the author of the poem has gone beyond physical love and hopes to attain mystic love. (Actually, I’m sitting here watching a full moon.)

  7. i think not sexual overtones , but it is explicitly sexual as much was in Early Modern poetry, thanks for sharing…

  8. What a wonderful analysis and in depth anatomisation.This is now a must read.

  9. Fantastic analysis; I’m off to find this poem. Thanks!

  10. Like it love it! 🙂

  11. Good analysis, may invite you along to one of my classes.

  12. Wonderful careful reading. Enjoyed it much! – Rachel

  13. Your thoughtful examination led me to the poem, which I had never read. Your arguments are plausible, and I don’t know enough about Wyatt’s era to relate his poem to it. My take was that it could have been written by anyone who had been stung more than once by romantic rejection or betrayal, and who is now older and wishes to put such hurt in the past for good. Tolerable to a younger person, the down side of love is more and more galling and unbearable with age. But I suspect that the poet is fresh from a new hurt and given time may recover enough to give it another go. (Once a Fool in Love, always!) Thanks for the good read!

  14. I enjoyed your analysis of the poem and as I was not familiar with the poet going in, I had no preconceived notions to cause me any difficulties in following along with your argument. All in all, I thought it was very thorough, and yet concise enough that you didn’t lose my interest. Thank you very much, and since I’m now following you, I shall be back for more sometime soon.

  15. I had no idea about these hidden meanings. I thank you very much.

  16. Thanks for the like. Enjoyed your site.

  17. Thanks for liking a post on my blog, it led me to yours, that you analyse poems makes you lovable, so I like your blog already.

  18. Thanks for liking my post, Melinda. Great to connect with you. I enjoyed your Wyatt analysis and perusing your poems and the poem/photo parings.

  19. The analysis is very interesting. Anand Bose from Kerala

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