Mine own John Poynz

Original Text: 
lines 1-51 from British Library Additional MS 17492 (Devonshire MS); cf. Collected Poems, ed. Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson (Liverpool University Press, 1969); the rest from British Library Egerton MS.
2The cause why that homeward I me draw,
4Rather than to live thrall under the awe
7It is not for because I scorn or mock
8The power of them, to whom fortune hath lent
9Charge over us, of right, to strike the stroke.
10But true it is that I have always meant
11Less to esteem them than the common sort,
12Of outward things that judge in their intent
13Without regard what doth inward resort.
14I grant sometime that of glory the fire
17But how may I this honour now attain,
18That cannot dye the colour black a liar?
19My Poynz, I cannot from me tune to feign,
20To cloak the truth for praise without desert
21Of them that list all vice for to retain.
25I cannot crouch nor kneel to do so great a wrong,
26To worship them, like God on earth alone,
29And suffer nought, nor smart without complaint,
30Nor turn the word that from my mouth is gone.
31I cannot speak and look like a saint,
32Use willes for wit, and make deceit a pleasure,
33And call craft counsel, for profit still to paint.
34I cannot wrest the law to fill the coffer
35With innocent blood to feed myself fat,
36And do most hurt where most help I offer.
37I am not he that can allow the state
39That with his death did scape out of the gate
41And would not live where liberty was lost;
43I am not he such eloquence to boast
44To make the crow singing as the swan;
45Nor call the liond of cowardes beasts the most
46That cannot take a mouse as the cat can;
49Passeth Apollo in music many fold;
52Praise him for counsel that is drunk of ale;
53Grin when he laugheth that beareth all the sway,
54Frown when he frowneth and groan when is pale;
55On others' lust to hang both night and day:
57My wit is nought--I cannot learn the way.
58And much the less of things that greater be,
60To join the mean with each extremity,
61With the nearest virtue to cloak alway the vice;
63To press the virtue that it may not rise;
64As drunkenness good fellowship to call;
65The friendly foe with his double face
66Say he is gentle and courteous therewithal;
68In eloquence; and cruelty to name
69Zeal of justice and change in time and place;
70And he that suffer'th offence without blame
71Call him pitiful; and him true and plain
72That raileth reckless to every man's shame.
73Say he is rude that cannot lie and feign;
74The lecher a lover; and tyranny
75To be the right of a prince's reign.
76I cannot, I; no, no, it will not be!
77This is the cause that I could never yet
78Hang on their sleeves that way, as thou mayst see,
79A chip of chance more than a pound of wit.
80This maketh me at home to hunt and to hawk,
81And in foul weather at my book to sit;
82In frost and snow then with my bow to stalk;
83No man doth mark whereso I ride or go:
92Rather than to be, outwardly to seem:
93I meddle not with wits that be so fine.
95Of black and white; nor taketh my wit away
98For money, poison, and treason at Rome--
99A common practice used night and day:
101Among the Muses where I read and rhyme;
102Where if thou list, my Poinz, for to come,
103Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time.


1] Tottel entitles it "Of the courtiers life written to John Poins." Modelled on Luigi Alamanni's Tenth Satire (1532).
John Poynz. This courtier and scholarly friend and correspondent of Wyatt's came from Iron Acton, Gloucestershire. There is a portrait of him by Holbein. Back to Line
3] press: crowd.
whereso they go: courts progressed with the king from place to place, mainly during the summer months. Back to Line
5] wrappèd: wrapped in MS. Back to Line
6] will and lust: wilfulness (or whim) and pleasure. Back to Line
15] Me list not: I do not like.
twyche: so Egerton MS, either "twitch" or "touch." Back to Line
16] by honour: concerning honour. Back to Line
22] sets. Third person plural in -s, probably derived from Northern, is common in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English. Back to Line
23] Venus: Goddess of Love.
Bacchus: God of wine. Back to Line
24] smart: feel sharp pain. Back to Line
27] sely: foolish, "silly," derived from OE "selig"=happy. Back to Line
28] Lines missing from Devonshire and Egerton, and therefore taken from the Arundel Castle Harington MS. Back to Line
38] Caesar: Gaius Julius Caesar (102/100-44 BC).
Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato, who committed suicide after the battle of Thapsus to avoid having to submit to Caesar's dictatorship. Back to Line
40] Livy: Titus Livius Livy (59 BC-?17 AD), Roman historian. Back to Line
42] common weal: the commonwealth, the state. Back to Line
47] dieth. Pronounced as one syllable; MS. "dithe." Back to Line
48] Alexander: the Great, 356-323 BC.
Pan: After Midas awarded the prize in a music contest between Pan and Apollo to Pan, Apollo changed Midas' ears to an ass's ears (Ovid, Metamorphoses, XI). Back to Line
50] Sir Thopias . . . tale: told by Chaucer himself in The Canterbury Tales; burlesque and incomplete because interrupted and rejected by the Host. Back to Line
51] the story that the Knight told: Chaucer's Knight's tale of the love of Palamon and Arcite for Emily. Back to Line
56] frame in: be conceived and shaped by. Back to Line
59] colours of device: rhetorical devices, possibly deliberate lies. Back to Line
62] as to purpose: as it may suit the occasion. Back to Line
67] favel: deceiving flattery. Back to Line
84] In lusty leas: pleasant countryside, possibly also restrained only by his wishes. Back to Line
85] these news: i.e, those that Poins has been sending him from the court. Back to Line
86] clog: a block chained to his leg ... a reference to Wyatt's being in custody (he was on parole but not permitted to leave the estate). Back to Line
87] No force: it does not matter. Back to Line
88] dyke: ditch. Back to Line
89] France. Wyatt resided at Calais in 1529 and had permission to export French wine. Perhaps an echo of Chaucer's Pardoner. Back to Line
90] saffry: savoury. Back to Line
91] Spain. Wyatt visited Spain, as Henry VIII's ambassador, a few months after writing these lines. Back to Line
94] letteth: prevents. Back to Line
96] they esteem beasts so highly that they make beasts of themselves. Back to Line
97] where Christ is given in prey / For money, poison, and treason at Rome. Back to Line
100] Kent: Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
F. D. Hoeniger; Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RP 1963: I.5 (F. D. Hoeniger); RPO 1994 (IL).