SUMMARY OF “WYATT RESTETH HERE, THAT QUICK COULD NEVER REST”
This is the longer of the two elegies Surrey wrote for Wyatt. Its form is similar to “So Cruel Prison” i.e. four-line stanzas with a short two-line couplet at the end. It shows that Surrey was really fond of the couplet as used in the English sonnet, as a kind of neat summary or paradoxical reversal of the main subject of the poem.
In so far as the theme of the poem is concerned, the poem concentrates on eulogizing of Wyatt’s virtues, not only as a poet but also as a courtier and virtuous man. Howard depicts Wyatt not merely as an “Ideal Renaissance Man” but also as an almost flawless human being who lived his life as God would want any Christian to live. He mentions Wyatt as virtuous, wise, patriotic, virtuous again, and stoic in his ability to deal appropriately with the fluctuations of fortune.
A visage, stern and mild; where both did grow,
Vice to condemn, in virtues to rejoice,
To live upright and smile at fortune’s choice.
Surrey also presents Wyatt as poetically talented, multilingual, and as a talented foreign diplomat. He also tells that Wyatt was a good mentor to English youth on their trips to Europe. He was also a man who sought to bring out the best in the people because he was himself highly virtuous and never deceitful.
An eye whose judgment no effect could blind,
Friends to allure, and foes to reconcile
With virtue fraught, reposed, void of guile.
Surrey again mentions further characteristics of Wyatt and presents him as brave, truthful, outspoken in defense of truth, sensible, stable, and mature. Wyatt is also described as having been both strong and attractive. “A valiant corps, where force and beauty met.” He was almost a perfect human being, but even then such a good man had his enemies. Surrey laments at this fact and writes:
Happy, alas! Too happy, but for foes,
Lived, and ran the race that nature set;
Of manhood’s shape, where she the mold did lose.
In the final stanza, Wyatt becomes almost a Christ figure. Wyatt’s innocent soul is now gone to heaven, leaving us his testimony of faith that was not recognized properly as “sent for our health but not received so.” So Wyatt is lost: “The earth his bones, the heavens possess his ghost”, and in this sinful world his essence is lost.
In so far as the technique of the elegy is concerned, it is full of paradoxical touches. The opening line of the elegy is also paradoxical-“quick” means “alive.” So the main restlessness in his lifetime now lies in eternal rest.
Then, the list of various parts of Wyatt’s body, each of which stands as a metonymy (or maybe a metaphor) is given paradoxical treatment. His head was full of wisdom and his face expressed the condemnation of vice and admiration of virtue. He ends the line with his corpse (body) uniting both force and beauty. So what Surrey does here is the metaphorical dismemberment of his dead friend and then re-uniting all the individual parts. (Words: 512)