Sir Thomas Wyatt, Epigram LXVIII

(found in one manuscript, in Wyatt's section of "Totel's Miscellany," and in a C18 collection)

Lucks, my falcon, and your fellows all,

How well pleasant it were your liberty!

Ye not forsake me that fair might ye befall.

But they that sometime liked my company

Like lice away from dead bodies they crawl.

Lo, what a proof in light adversity!

But ye, my birds, I swear by all your bells,

Ye be my friends and so be but few else


R.A. Rebholz, from whose critical edition this version is adapted (101), thinks that this poem dates from Wyatt's imprisonment after the death of the Thomas Cromwell, the earl of Essex, in June 1540, because Cromwell could have protected Wyatt ("my friends"), but before his imprisonment on suspicion of treason based on a diplomatic mission Wyatt had undertaken in the following year (382).  Others think it dates from Wyatt's appointment as High Marshall of the English continental port of Calais in 1528-30.  R. A. Rebholz, Ed.  Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1978.

Falcons were trained to fly to the hand of their keeper but were restrained upon the falconer's arm for travel by "jesses" or straps trailing from their feet.  "Bells" usually were attached to the jesses to help the falconer track the bird in flight as it hunted, or to find the bird should the jesses become entangled in tree limbs, and their jingling flight overhead would have warned those in the field that nobles were on the hunt with their birds of prey.