Sir Thomas Wyatt's They flee from me tells a short story of man seduced by a woman that felt so good in the beginning, yet became so deceivingly dissatisfying in the end. This poem conveys complaints by a man abandoned by his mistress. The printed version by Richard Tottel ("The lover showeth how
") is a revised version and tries to polish, if not, improve Wyatt's original version of the poem. However subtle the revision appears to be, Tottel tries to clarify Wyatt's intentions. The irony in "They flee from me" is revealed when "kindely" (line 20) has been changed into "unkindly" ( line 20) in Tottel's printed version. Furthermore, Tottel tempers with the ending of the poem and addresses the crowd by asking: "How like you this? What hath she now deserved?" (line 21)
The first stanzas of the two poems appear to be identical; a man that was foolishly deceived by a woman, who was at first "tame and meek" (line 3), but has now become harsh or "wild" (line 4). Once they ate out of the palm of this man's hand and now they simply run away. The story remains the same, the word "once", however, added in lines 3 and 4 , draws attention to the fact that the man in question, of all the times he encountered love, one time in specific something went horribly wrong, whereas in Wyatt's version we can only assume that this is the case. Moreover. the metrical changes made in lines 2 ("within") , 3 ("once") , 4 ("once") and 5 ("have") in Tottel's revision show the reader that Wyatt's version plays with a very irregular metre and that Tottel's had to smooth out these lines in order to establish an iambic pentameter.
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