COMPLETE ANALYSIS OF SIR THOMAS WYATT’S POEM “IS IT POSSIBLE”
Submitted By: Mansib Ali
The Paraphrase: “Detailed Meaning”
In the first stanza, SIR THOMAS WYATT shows the disloyalty and changeability of women’s nature and wonders how their relationship ends with such sharp quarrel. They decide to end their quarrel by putting an end to their love.
In the second stanza, the persona wants to say that an extreme emotion moves to become the extreme contrast and extreme love to his beloved turns to be extreme hatred. As a result, one’s emotions, as mentioned before, have to be moderate. The speaker also tries to show how his beloved and women, in general, are skilled in changing their emotions quickly.
In the third stanza, he emphasizes the idea unpredictability and changeability of women’s emotions by comparing his beloved to a wind or weather. He wants to reflect how quick woman is in changing her emotions towards her lover. Women are as fast as wind and weather in changing their emotions.
In the fourth stanza, the poet mentions that the relationship between him and his beloved is something like playing a dice game, based on chance and luck. Such kind of games may get one low after being very high.
In the fifth stanza, the speaker shows that love and its mutability turn everything upside down. The highest and most lofty emotions are brought to the lowest rank.
In the last stanza, he advises all men to trust women first before loving them. Such an advice comes after the poet has scolded his beloved.
1. Title of the poem: “The Lover Recounteth the Variable Fancy of His Fickle Mistress”
The title tells us about the changeable love or nature of his (lover) disloyal beloved. Therefore, the main theme of the poem is the changeability and disloyalty.
“Is it Possible” is a nice and simple lyric poem which belongs to the English Native School. It expresses a universal theme through a subjective and personal experience. The main theme of the poem is the changeability and unpredictability of women’s nature. This idea is based on the poet‘s quarrel with his beloved who has a changeable nature like all women. SIR THOMAS WYATT in “Is it Possible” wants to show how extreme leads to another extreme? One’s emotions or love should be moderate, not excessive. Otherwise, it will consume itself. WYATT does not seem to believe in the double-mindedness of the beloved as a whole. But then he comes to find out the same weakness in the character of his own beloved. He feels a nervous shock to find that out. It is the explanation of that serious shock that takes the shape of this poem. The poet, in the poem, contradicts the Petrarchan Poetry because he is against the courtly love tradition. “Is it Possible”, finally, is a very dramatic poem for it has a tension which is the quarrel between the poet and his beloved.
The ode (a poem that speaks to a person or thing or celebrates a special event) reminds us of JOHN DONNE‘s poem “Goe and Catche a falling star”. As in order to show the absolute impossibility of the existence of a loyal woman, the poet names a number of impossibilities, saying about each that it can be somehow a possibility, but the impossibility of a woman’s loyalty is the one absolute impossibility. He challenges anyone who says he can prove his proposition wrong. He asks the possible challenger to travel around the world for ten thousand days, and try to find just a single faithful woman. The search, he asserts, will be fruitless. And if he does find any such woman the poet says it would be a sweet pilgrimage for him (the poet) to go and see her. But then he comes back to his assertion saying he would not go to see her even if she lived next door to him, because by the time he reaches her, she would have deceived two or three lovers. LOVE and Divine poems by JOHN DONNE, Page 152-56:
“And find / What wind / Serves to advance an honest mind.” ( lines 7-9)
The theme is the same disloyalty of the beloved. WYATT bewails the inconstancy of a particular day. He is shocked because he believed it was impossible. The theme of this poem is love and the uncertainty and difficulty that comes with love. In the poem, the poet asks a series of rhetorical questions about the ways in which love can seem impossible to understand. He focuses mainly on the feeling of uncertainty that comes with love. He talks about how hearts can change as easily as the weather, implying that love can be fickle and be changing and therefore uncertain and difficult to understand. He talks about how someone’s emotions can go from lowest to highest and back again, all because of love. A person who has been in love will recognize these feelings from their own experience — the highs, the lows, the uncertainty, the confusion. This is the major theme of this poem.
The whole poem also shows us the love between the poet and his beloved. But that love is from the poet’s side only. His beloved does not love him as much as he loves her. His Love turns to be a painful love and that love starts aching because of her. Another theme of this poem is a memorial. The poet remembers his hurtful experience in love with his beloved who does not share him those feelings. It ends and breaks the poet’s heart.
4. Development of Thought
The poem is written in the form of lyric as it is short and musical. It deals with the personal experience of the poet. He expresses his experience of the poet and also expresses his sorrow at the failure of his love and the fickleness of his beloved.
Poem’s language is not very elaborated. “Is it Possible”, as a rhetorical question, is addressed to both his beloved and the reader. The answer to the question is given at the end of the poem which is “All is Possible”, said in a very satirical mood:
“All is possible! Whoso list believe, Trust therefore first and after preve; As men wed ladies by license and leave; All is possible!”
As the poem starts with a rhetorical question. It is a protest in the form of a rhetorical question. The protest is gently expressed in the opening line, “Is It Possible?”, which comes as a surprise to the reader. This question draws the reader’s attention and involves him in the subject matter. The poet wonders if it is logical that the strong and high love ends shortly and turns to painful and distressing feelings. The repetition of the rhetorical question reflects the persona’s hysterical case and astonishment.
“That so high debate, so sharp, so sore, and of such rate”.
In the above following lines, the word “high” shows the strength and loftiness of this love which quickly turns into hatred. In spite of its highness, it quickly fades away and proves to be inconstant. The poet makes a contrast between the previous and the contemporary state of this love to show its mutability. There is antithesis in “end so soon” and “begun so late”. The contradiction between these words reflects the shortness of a long time and this makes this experience painful for the poet.
“From love to hate, and thence for to relent”
The above following line illustrates the idea of how an extreme emotion leads to the extreme contrast. The poet uses antithesis in “from love to hate”. The contradiction between these words reflects the poet’s idea which shows the mutability of love. The human emotion changes from one state to the opponent quickly. There is antithesis in “lowest” and “loft”, and “fall” and “light”. The contradiction between these words reflects the change of his beloved’s mood. The word “diverse” shows that it is possible that one has many different attitudes at the same time. He also uses many contradictory words to emphasize the idea of changeability and extremes like the end – begun, love-hate, lowest – aloft and soon – spent.
Some critics argue that a poet is an ego-centric person as he sees that his relationship with his beloved is like all other relationships between lovers. In other words, it is argued that WYATT fell into the trap of generalization. The words “turn, weather, and die” reflect the idea of changeability of women’s nature. His beloved, like all women, have the ability to change her emotions quickly. It is the idea of how women are very moody creatures.
i. The Imagery:
WYATT in this poem uses what is called the conceptual images so as to deliver the main theme of the poem. “As weather and wind?” is a conceptual image in which his beloved’s changeability is compared to the English weather which knows for being unpredictable, as:
“To change or turn as weather and wind”.
In addition, such changeability accompanies with cruelty. There is a simile in “as oft as chance on dice”. The poet compares his relationship to a dice game based on chance in which nothing is predictable.
“To bring that lowest that was most aloft”
This line is another allusion to the Greek mythology because it believes that fortune is a woman who wits turning a wheel. It is also an allusion to the weathercock whose face is changeable. Finally, all these images, conceptual images, are used by WYATT to assure the unpredictability of women. Therefore in the whole poem, the beloved is compared to Wind, weather, wheel of fortune, dice and cock or weathercock.
The tone of “Is it Possible” is a tone of sarcasm and astonishment. The graphical appearance of the lines has many interpretations. The lines are sometimes short and sometimes long as if they are flames of fire. It reflects the state of confession and instability caused by the quarrel between him and his beloved.
iii. The sound and Rhythm:
The poet uses some sound devices to raise the sense of music. The most prominent sound device of this poem is the refrain “Is it Possible”. As the refrain also raises the sense of music and creates unity throughout the poem. This means that the opening line repeats at the end of each stanza as a refrain (Words or lines repeated in the course of the poem, recurring at intervals, sometimes with slight variation, usually at the end of stanzas). The main function of the refrain is to provide a form with the poet’s feeling. Thus, all the stanzas, except the last one, open and end with the same lines. The poet’s use of the refrain shows his sadness and astonishment. He cannot believe that his great love can end shortly. The refrain gives the sense of bitterness and anger. The reader sees that the length of the lines increases gradually like the form of a pyramid. The increase of the length of the line reflects the rising of his indignation, anger and bitterness. This shows the development of the poet’s emotion.
The post uses a regular rhyme scheme ABBA to show the systematic changes of his beloved’s emotions. It creates the high musical effect. It is regular to show that he is still shocked and depressed. The poet gives advice that mutability of emotion is part and parcel of the course of nature. This is seen through the regularity of rhyme scheme. The poet uses alliteration in “hast heat” due to the repetition of the /h/ sound. It raises the musical effect and creates unity among words. It reflects the instability of his beloved. Their relationship begins with intense and warm feeling, and then it cools down quickly. Her emotions change from one extreme to another:
“So hasty heat, and so soon spent”.
The poet also uses alliteration in “so soon spent” due to the repetition of /s/ sound. It raises the musical effect and creates unity among words. The /s/ sound reflects the hissing sound. It draws the reader’s attention to the cruelty and mercilessness of his beloved. This sound echoes the hissing of the snake. Thus, this sound helps the reader to visualize the sight of the snake. It connotes danger, threat and cunning. Moreover, the /s/ sound reflects the suffering of the persona. The /w/ in “wind – weather” reflects his suffering and sorrow. There is assonance in “highest, light”.
“To bring that low’st that was most aloft; And to fall highest, yet to light soft”.
It raises the sense of music and creates unity between words. It draws the reader’s attention to the change of his beloved’s attitude.
iv. Literary tools:
There is a simile in “as weather”. The poet likens the change of the beloved’s mood to that of the weather and wind which are unpredictable. This image is relevant. Love and weather have the same nature. Both are changeable. This shows the mutability of love. There is also a simile in “die”. The poet likens the fickleness of love to the change of dice which turns once that side and once the other side. The poet also likens the “eye” to “die” of the backgammon in these lines:
“To spy it in an eye; That turns as oft as chance on die”.
This shows the element of fate and luck in the dice which shows the changeability and mutability in the action of the dice which shows the changeability of love and emotion. The poet wants to draw the reader’s attention to the idea that love is transient and not permanent. There is a pun in the word “die”. This word has a double meaning. First, it refers to the cube with numbered faces which is used in the game of backgammon. Second, it refers to death. The reader finds that fate interferes in both the dice and the death.
To sum up, it can be stated that WYATT shows his belief and the mutability of emotion is part and parcel of the course of nature. He shows that it is normal to love and forsake according to the course of nature.
Wyatt tells us about his personal experience in the form of changeable woman’s nature. Therefore, he recognizes the feelings of love through his personal experience in the whole poem and uses the theme of disloyalty of the woman’s nature. As the poet loves his beloved passionately but she leaves him because of her own inconsistent nature.
After reading my remarks you can cut here:
My Lyrical Remarks about the major theme of Disloyalty of women’s nature:
“I appreciate WYATT’s writing that you can achieve anything in the world (all is possible) but you cannot get a faithful beloved (it is impossible). Although it is the effect of Renaissance age it is also available in the modern age. Because in the modern age, a lover hunts the conflict which is between appearance and reality of his beloved. As it is the conflict between loyalty and disloyalty and between possibility and impossibility in Renaissance’s era. As in the modern age, the word “Disloyalty” is hidden in the word of ‘Brother‘ when a beloved says that: “You are my brother”. Therefore, I am also the victim of this conflict like WYATT.
But I also appreciate to her faithlessness because it enforces to think of a lover and this thinking gives the creativity of his broken words in the form of verses which creates him as a good sonneteer, a poet or a critic like WYATT.”
« Textbook of SIR THOMAS WYATT and HENRY HOWARD (selected poems)’, Latest Edition 2013-14, Published by ‘New Kitab Mahal’ < NKM >
« Textbook of LOVE and Divine poems by JOHN DONNE, latest edition 2015 -16, Published by ‘New Kitab Mahal’ < NKM >
« Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 9th edition, Published by Oxford University Press, 2015
« A Dictionary of Literary Terms, Second Edition by MARTIN GRAY
« Various Education Websites for Online Search