Barash, Carol. "The Political Origins of Anne Finch's Poetry." The Huntington Library Quarterly 54, no. 4 (autumn 1991): 327-351.
"FRIENDSHIP'S MYSTERIES, TO MY DEAREST LUCASIA" Katherine Philips (1655) The first English woman to write same-sex love poetry, Katherine Philips employed this approach to celebrate her closest friendships, particularly with Anne Owen, the Lucasia of many of her poems. "Friendship's Mysteries, to My Dearest Lucasia" would be set to music by the esteemed musician Henry Lawes, who also worked with the verse of John Milton. Philips took friendship so seriously that she explored the topic with the noted religious leader Jeremy Taylor, and her poetry reflects the attitude that true friendship remains a spiritual matter. Philips's liberal use of metaphysical conceits aligns her with John Donne and others who incorporated hyperbole to express their romantic passion, shaping it to support her declaration of the passion of friendship. This poem takes the form of six five-line stanzas, each with a rhyme scheme of ababb.
The first stanza classifies the speaker's love shared with Lucasia as a practice of faith, as the speaker tells Lucasia that, since the faith of men is moved by miracles, they should prove "To the dull, angry world" that "There's a religion in our love." Having established their spiritual relationship, the speaker asks Lucasia to agree in the second stanza "That fate no liberty destroys," so their "election is as free / As Angels" who may determine their own joys. Philips makes clear that this relationship is not forced, but the product of free choice. She introduces the first of several metaphysical conceits in stanza 3, writing in the first line, "our hearts are doubled by their loss" to continue emphasis on the benefits of their relationship. They do not each lose a heart; rather, they each gain one in addition to their own. The mix causes growth even as the hearts appear to be spread thin, as "We both diffuse, and both engross." Philips also emphasizes the intellectual aspect of their relationship and extends the metaphysical nature of her poem as her speaker adds, "And we, whose minds are so much one, / Never, yet ever, are alone." Stanza four turns on the idea of the captive heart as a positive:
We court our own captivity, Then thrones more great and innocent: 'Twere banishment to be set free, Since we wear fetters whose intent Not bondage is, but ornament.
Philips adds paradox by stating that banishment is equivalent to freedom and release, not a disgraceful dismissal.
The fifth stanza continues praising the strength gained through shared love, as "griefs united easier grow." The two friends are "Both princes, and both subjects too," as Philips again offers a paradox. The friends enjoy the wealth of royal people yet remain subject to one another. It is in their subjection that they gain a privileged life. The final stanza emphasizes in a parenthetical remark that through the power of friendship, the two hearts become "altars, priests, and offerings." This means that "each heart which thus kindly dies, / Grows deathless by the sacrifice." The act of friendship becomes akin to a religious act, conquering death as does submission to God.
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