Within one heart so diverse mind

I'm about half way through Wolf Hall now, and one character who seems to crop up more and more is the young poet Thomas Wyatt: charmer of women, protege of Cromwell, and former lover of Anne Boleyn, who now so bewitches the King. This arrestingly modern poem, “The Lover Recounteth the Variable Fancy of his Fickle Mistress,” taketh on new significance when read in the context of Wyatt's court life. It's ostensibly about his mistress, but it might also be about the fickle favour of a capricious monarch - in this case a monarch with his beady eye on the poet's ex. It treats of lover's quarrels, but it might also reference the fierce and murderous debates over religion, which after all were knottily entwined with the ‘king's matter’: his licence to set his wife aside, and with her all Roman Catholic sway. It's a whinge from a jealous suitor, but it might also speak to a prevailing mood of certainties being unhinged. Man the paragon is really a fractured creature, subject to conscious as well as unconscious forces; all weakness, all weathercock variability, all wayward mutability are possible now in women and in men.  

Is it possible
That so high debate,
So sharp, so sore, and of such rate,
Should end so soon and was begun so late?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
So cruel intent,
So hasty heat and so soon spent,
From love to hate, and thence for to relent?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
That any may find
Within one heart so diverse mind,
To change or turn as weather and wind?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
To spy it in an eye
That turns as oft as chance on die,
The truth whereof can any try?
Is it possible?

Is it possible?
For to turn so oft,
To bring that lowest which was most aloft,
And to fall highest yet to light soft:
It is possible.

All is possible
Whoso list believe.
Trust therefore first, and after preve,
As men wed ladies by licence and leave.
All is possible.

Historical Friction

Whenever I try to read historical fiction, the little man in my hair starts screaming “Wrong! Wrong! It’s all wrong! They wouldn’t have said that! They didn’t talk like that! That wouldn’t have happened!”

My sister-in-law, a historian, gave me Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall for Christmas. Reading this novel about Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII, I’m managing to keep the little man subdued while I enjoy, if not the language – which hardly tries for verisimilitude - at least the texture, the habits of thought, the smell and feel of Tudor London, which are admirably contrived. While their speech has to be read as rough translation (if only to placate the little man), you do feel as though you were bumping up against the real bodies of Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry, Anne Boleyn, their immense personalities. You feel the rich crackle and sizzle of the court, the ever-present threat of betrayal, arrest, horrible death. You also feel the certainties of church, prayer-book, rosary, relic; you feel them crumbling against the tidal push of protest coming from abroad. Sixteenth-century life and custom, rather than being simply documented, are woven dexterously into the fabric of the story. There is an immediacy about it which is more pleasing than accuracy. No doubt this is the point, pace little man, of historical fiction.