Study Guide

Whoso List to Hunt What's Up With the Title?

By Sir Thomas Wyatt

What's Up With the Title?

The title "Whoso List to Hunt" doesn't really tell us a whole lot, now does it? Heck, it's not even a complete sentence (we should take five points off just for that). The title's vagueness, however, is kind of neat. When we see a phrase like "Whoever cares to hunt" (our modernized version of the title), we automatically start to wonder what the speaker might say next.

It's a title that dares us to "fill in the blank," so to speak, or dares us to read further to find out just what exactly this little sonnet has in store. We have no idea if this is a poem about the dangers facing those who want to hunt, or about a location where there's some good game, or about something else. That in itself makes it kind of interesting, eh? It stimulates our imagination and our curiosity.

Back in the day, this poem wasn't called "Whoso List to Hunt," however. Many of Wyatt's early editors used to refer to this little guy as "The Lover Despairing to Attain Unto His Lady's Grace Relinquisheth the Pursuit." How's that for a descriptive title? This other title, which you may sometimes encounter if you poke around the Internet, pretty much sums up the poem. The speaker realizes that he can't get the deer, or rather he despairs of ever attaining his goal, and he just throws in the towel. While very descriptive, this title is kind of boring. It doesn't excite us or pique our curiosity. It just summarizes—snooze-a-rama.

Before we move on, we need to tell you that Wyatt never published "Whoso List to Hunt." Actually he never really gave it a title either, which is why there are two titles floating around out there. We have no idea what Wyatt would have wanted to call the poem, so just keep in mind that the title is sort of made up since dude was long dead when folks first put it into print.

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