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Saturday, February 05, 2005


circa regna tonat

sir thomas wyatt wrote this poem, titled v. innocentia veritas viat fides circumdederunt me inimici mei -- latin for 'my enemies surround my innocent, truthful, faithful soul'.

Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.

The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.

These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.

By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.
the latin circa regna tonat is a phrase that i find carrying increasing applicability with every passing month. wyatt wrote these words in the tower of london in 1536, having been arrested in a sweep by machaivellian thomas cromwell as he machinated to align england into a reconciliation with slighted catholic spain.

as he watched, five men falsely accused of being intimate with anne boleyn, the mistress-cum-wife-cum-inconvenience of king henry viii whose marriage was made possible by the king's divorce -- an act which required the founding of the anglican faith and the break with rome -- were sent to the executioner.

wyatt witnessed a few days later the beheading of anne boleyn herself from the bell tower -- "The bell tower showed me such sight/That in my head sticks day and night./There did I learn out of a grate,/For all favour, glory, or might,/That yet circa Regna tonat."

wyatt's words are a warning. as this society grows more and yet more unwary of the massing of power under one command, and as the office of that command is ever more praised, reviled, watched and acknowledged to be the primal source of power -- with or without the complicity of tradition and law -- his testimony to the terrible fire of national monarchy and the awful price of standing too tall grows ever more relevant.

circa regna tonat -- 'around the throne, the thunder roars'.

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