Wyatt’s Petrarchan Poems
This chapter addresses the first significant encounter between English love poetry and the Italian tradition it had inherited: the Petrarchan translations and adaptations of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Love played a negligible role as a subject of inquiry in the philosophical and religious culture of early Tudor England compared to Renaissance Italy, and Wyatt’s dismissal of Petrarch’s idea of transcendent love was consistent with a much larger cultural dismissal of both Neoplatonism and the Catholic idealization of the female beloved. In his translations, Wyatt consistently strove to transform the Petrarchan paradigm of a love that extends beyond death into a strictly mortal understanding of love; he erased, in effect, the “in morte” sonnets from the English tradition, ushering in a new mode of mortal poetics in English lyric.
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