Here’s my synopsis of this poem:
Lady, I love you. Are we gonna hook up or what?
Classy. Of course, Sir Thomas Wyatt‘s version of Madam, Withouten Many Words is much more beautiful. His poem was inspired by the Italian poet Dragonetto Bonifacio’s Madonna Non So Dir Tante Parole. My understanding is that Bonifacio’s poem was the source, and that Wyatt’s version was not a direct translation.
This analysis of the poem delves into the meaning of some of the words (“oons” being one that it obsolete today but could have meant something like “sometime” or “once and for all”), and this one speculates that this poem might have been about Anne Boleyn — “choose me or King Henry!” I don’t think that’s the case for two reasons: I think I would have found more speculation online about that and I think it would have been written as an original rather than as a poem similar to that of the Italian poet. But I love the Boleyn story, so I enjoy going along with that, even though I don’t believe it’s the case!
How would you respond if you were the lady? The poem isn’t that romantic. It sounds a little more … er, horny … than romantic. Or maybe, read another way, the man is tired of being strung along. (We women do that to men sometimes, and they could potentially be blameless for this sort of put-up-or-shut-up request.) But some brilliant writer has already thought of all this and wrote the following response. (You can also read Bonifacio’s version at the same link.) Clever!