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.
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