Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest

Katherine Rundell writes:

Before Anne Boleyn laid her head on the executioner’s block, she bent and wrapped the hem of her dress around her feet. She thereby ensured that, if in her death throes she were to spreadeagle her legs, the crowd would not see up her skirt. It was a gesture at once gracious and gruesome, and the verse that Sir Thomas Wyatt (probably) wrote on the occasion from the Tower of London is equally dark (‘circa Regna tonat’ means ‘it thunders around the throne’):

The bell towre showid me suche syght\ That in my head stekys day and nyght\ There dyd I lerne out of A grate\ For all vavore glory or myght\ That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proffe I say the[r] dyd I lerne,\ Wyt helpythe not deffence to yerne\ Of innocencie to pled or prate\ Ber low therffor geve god the sterne,\ For sure circa Regna tonat.

(LRB 6 December 2012)

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