Love is a basic necessity of human life that is sought after in order to fulfil a want for romantic involvement. Love is a commonly explored theme throughout the world of literary works, especially in that of poetry. Sir Thomas Wyatt explores this theme in many of his different works, but often in a negative context. Multiple literary devices are used in Wyatt's "They Flee from Me" in order to convey his theme. He speaks of women with whom the speaker has been romantically involved that use him solely for physical pleasure and then upon obtaining this pleasure, leave. Wyatt uses rhyme scheme, imagery, and diction to display his theme and message.
The structure of the rhyme scheme used in Wyatt's poem "They Flee from Me" can lend itself to be interpreted as a plot line for the speaker's life. The rhyme scheme that Wyatt uses is a seven lined stanza, having the scheme of ABABBCC. A powerful conclusion in each stanza is effectively set up through this rhyming scheme and stanza form. The ABABB lines set up impact for the CC lines. The first three lines of the stanzas in this poem alternate in rhyme, and then the last four end in rhyming couplets. The repetition of the speaker's abandonment by women after sexual acts is reflected in this. As a whole, this poem tells of a man who was once favoured but has now noticed that his past lovers no longer want or need him. His life is filled with unfaithful lovers, and women who leave him for other men. This poem is not a typical, idealized romantic work and that is emphasized by the reflection of the speaker's life through the rhyme scheme.
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Romantic works often employ the use of imagery to create the ideal situation of love and romance. However, the imagery that Wyatt uses is very literal and straightforward; it is used to describe his many sexual exploitations. The first stanza of the poem is an extended metaphor comparing the women that the speaker has been involved with as animals that flee from him and abandon him as they move on to new men. "They flee from me" (1) conjures up an image of the speaker as a hunter and the women as his prey. Animals who were once "gentle, tame, and meek" (3) but who now are "wild" (4) are used a comparison to these women. These women, who at one point had readily submitted themselves to the speaker, gave him dominance and the speaker was able to easily gain control over them. They were much like trained and domesticated animals. Now, however, "they range, / Busily seeking with a continual change" (6-7). So that they may seek other men elsewhere to provide them with the physical pleasure that they hunt for, the women leave him. Meanwhile, in the second stanza the speaker recalls being visited by a beautiful, scantily clad woman "twenty times better" (9) than the others whose "loose gown from her shoulders did fall." (11) Here the tides have turned. The role of the hunter is taken over by this woman and the speaker becomes the prey when "she [catches him] in her arms long and small." (12) The conventionally male role of courtship has been taken away from the speaker by the woman - he was courted, he was sexually seduced, he was abandoned, and now he is frustrated and even angry. The use of imagery in this poem brings light to the less than ideal romantic situation of the speaker as well as his feelings on it.
The diction that is used by Wyatt reflects the true desires of the speaker. The vocabulary used in the poem is elegant and expressive. The use of this sort of vocabulary mirrors the speaker's want and need for a relationship that is much more than just sexual relations. However, when this relationship cannot be found, the speaker becomes agitated and discouraged at the lack of actual romance in his life. In the line "It was no dream, I lay broad waking" (15), Wyatt has shortened the standard ten-syllable line to nine syllables, thus creating a dramatic pause between "dream" and "I." The fact that it is a memory that is still fresh in the mind of the speaker is suggested by the pause between these two words which emphasizes both halves of the line. This highly appealing memory however is short lived as the speaker soon after tells the reader that everything has now changed (16). The speaker's tone is initially self-pitying (16), but he soon becomes sarcastic (18) and then bitter and even vengeful (20-21). The speaker's gentleness is the reason that the woman forsakes and abandons him. This promiscuous woman is content with a one time, no strings attached, occurrence, but the speaker however is not. He would rather have someone to court than be treated as an object of lust and this is shown very clearly through the use of diction.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
The literary devices that Wyatt uses to convey the message in the poem "They Flee from Me" provide subtle hints towards the speaker's true feelings about women and relationships of love. The speaker feels abused and abandoned because he is being used for sexual purposes, while he yearns for a romantic relationship. Wyatt's rhyme scheme, imagery, and diction play a significant role in revealing this meaning to the reader. The speaker wants to be loved as more than just a lover between the sheets.
Greenblatt, Stephen. "They Flee from Me."Â The Norton Anthology of English Literature.New York: Norton, 2006. 351. Print.