Maddy: Hi, I’m Maddy Fisher and this is Crossing the Rubicon, SPAs poetry podcast. This is likely the last episode of the school year, so I will be reading and briefly discussing one of my favorite poems.
“Whoso List to Hunt, I Know where is an Hind” by Sir Thomas Wyatt:
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
Maddy: “Whoso List to Hunt, I Know where is an Hind” is probably my favorite poem! Though it is rather misogynistic and creepy, I have always been interested in the history behind it. It was written around the 1530s and was actually one of the first sonnets written in English. The woman the speaker describes is thought to be Anne Boleyn, who was then being courted by Henry VIII and with whom Wyatt is rumored to have had an affair with.
Maddy: One of the most interesting lines of the piece is the second to last; “noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am.” Literally translated, “noli me tangere” is Latin for “touch me not.” If the poem was indeed written about Boleyn, the mention of Caesar in the second half of the line would consequently reference Henry VIII’s power and imply “ownership.” Sexist, but interesting.
Maddy: It has also been argued that “noli me tangere” is an allusion to Jesus saying “touch me not” to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection in the Bible. The line could also possibly be a reference to the Roman author Solinus. According to Solinus, 300 years after Caesar’s death, white stags could still be found in the Roman empire with the words “noli me tangere, Caesaris sum” inscribed on their collars, which translates to “do not touch me, I am Caesar’s.” However, all Roman emperors could be called “Caesar” informally, so the validity of that story is somewhat suspect.
Maddy: Though the poem has a lot of problems, namely the objectification of its subject and the synonymy of love and violence, I find the historical context interesting.
Maddy: Before I go, I would like to thank anyone who has been interviewed for or listened to one of my episodes. I enjoyed creating this podcast far more than I thought I would and I would like to think I’ve learned a lot. Sorry for the terrible sound quality!
Maddy: Once again, I’m Maddy Fisher, and this has been Crossing the Rubicon.
Adding The Sun by Kevin MacLeod