Study Guide

Whoso List to Hunt Lines 13-14

By Sir Thomas Wyatt

Lines 13-14

Lines 13-14

"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."

  • Ah, finally. We were wondering if we were ever going to find out what was written on this deer's darn neck. The graven diamonds or whatever say "Noli me tangere" and that the deer belongs to Caesar. 
  • They also say this deer is "wild for to hold," even though she seems tame. Hmm, they might as well just read "Don't get any ideas pal. I may seem calm now, but I'm waaaay too much for you to handle, chief."
  • Now for the "Noli me tangere" part: this is not gibberish; it's Latin (which still might look like gibberish to you anyway). Still, it's the language spoken by the ancient Romans, of which Caesar was one of the most famous. 
  • It can be translated as "do not touch me," or if you prefer something more poetic, "Touch me not." Ah, so this deer belongs to Caesar, and the sign is warning potential hunters to stay away. 
  • So is this really Caesar's deer? Yeah, probably not. Caesar lived about fifteen hundred years before Wyatt did. But, Caesar was the first dictator of the Roman Empire, and he's a symbol of power, great generalship, and tragedy (he was eventually assassinated). (Head here for more on him.) 
  • The powerful leader that Wyatt most likely has in mind is Henry VIII, king of England. Obviously, Wyatt was trying to avoid saying anything too obvious about the king, or his wife, or about his (Wyatt's) earlier fascination with her. 
  • By referring to Henry as "Caesar," Wyatt makes Henry seem like a famous and powerful Roman, but one whose life didn't end so well. Is this Wyatt's way of predicting a bad end for Henry VIII? 
  • In either case, the deer belongs to somebody else. Back in the day in England, you could get killed for hunting one of the king's deer. In other words, the speaker must stay away.
  • The other thing about these lines is that they echo a passage from the Bible. In John 20:17, Jesus says something like "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my father." Woah.
  • So is Wyatt comparing this deer woman to Jesus? Eh, kind of. 
  • The speaker shouldn't touch the deer because he could get killed. Also, however, he shouldn't touch her because she's semi-sacred or holy, a very special deer that is close to God. Well, isn't that neat? 
  • Before we say goodbye, let's cover one last thing. We told you the first eight lines are a group and so are the last 6. The rhyme scheme for these last six is: CDDCEE. 
  • And hey, those last two lines that rhyme in succession are called a couplet (because they're a little couple, get it?). 
  • But not our speaker and the deer woman. Much as he'd like to change it, they are most certainly not a couple. Got it?

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