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"SONG: TO LUCASTA, GOING TO WARS" Richard Lovelace (1649) Richard Lovelace participated in a common 16th-century amatory poetry tradition by celebrating a woman, her identity veiled by a pseudonym, in many of his poems, 27 to be exact. By the 17th century many poets, including Robert Herrick, referenced more than one woman, but others, including Edmund Waller and Thomas Carew, adhered to the tradition as Lovelace did.
Lucasta's true identity remains under discussion and may never be settled. At one time Lucasta was believed to be Lucy Sacheverel, referred to by Lovelace as Lux Casta (chaste light), who married another man, as she supposedly believed Lovelace had died of war wounds. The scholar C. H. Hartmann believed her to be a real person because Lovelace referred to Lucasta in the ode "You Are Deceived" along with William Habington's Castara and Waller's Sacharissa, both confirmed to be actual women. Whether Lucasta was a real person or an ideal, she inspired Lovelace to adopt the courtly Petrarchan format for his sonnets, with one exception, thus avoiding erotic themes that appear in his other poems.
Lovelace's participation in the Bishops' Wars during 1639 and 1640 inspired his 12-line three-stanza farewell poem. The speaker addresses his love in the first stanza with a plea that she not believe him cruel for leaving her behind. He begins to unfold one of the most logical, beautiful arguments in the English language, setting a dramatic scene:
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the Nunnery of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
The reader may easily imagine a man quietly speaking to his love, a woman who had, previous to the poem, possibly expressed dismay upon learning that her lover would be leaving. Lovelace employs the term Nunnery as FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE (FIGURE OF SPEECH), establishing a metaphor for a woman's world untouched by the violence that his speaker will experience. The related terms chaste and quiet emphasize how foreign the idea of combat would be to her. His simple language works to soothe his love as he remains in control of his emotions. The male voice moves away from the female presence, emphasizing his independence, to enter a man's world. While the woman's role in Lovelace's time is passively to preserve her virtue, the male lover must fulfill his courtly role as an active defender of the faith. Lovelace establishes a pun with the term Arms, which he will extend later in the poem.
The second stanza plays on the pun of Arms to advance war as a mistress, shattering the speaker's loyalty to his love:
True, a new Mistress now I chase, The First Foe in the Field; And with a stronger Faith embrace A Sword, a Horse, a Shield.
Lovelace employs alliteration to emphasize the connections among the words that begin with the letter F the word Faith acting as a pun on a woman's name. He also executes wordplay with the term embrace, not using it to mean romantic physical contact, but rather acceptance of the tools of battle. The fact that this faith is "stronger" than the one he has for his love indicates it does not reflect an erotic emotion.
The third stanza adopts irony in the speaker's tone as he suggests that his ladylove will also embrace his new endeavor, and why she will:
Yet this inconstancy is such, As you, too, shall adore; I could not love thee (Dear) so much, Lov'd I not Honor more.
Lovelace balances his lyric with the parenthetic insertion of a fond address "(Dear)," echoing the first line address "(Sweet)," and he skillfully unifies his poem by relating romantic love to honor and country. His silent partner remains unable to protest his "unfaithfulness," as it is inspired by a cause equally sacred to their love. He does not leave her; he moves toward his duty as a man of honor, to defend his country and, by extension, to defend her. His exquisite logic leaves her not only unable to protest, but actually grateful to play a part in his endeavor.
SONNET In the 17th and 18th centuries the traditional fixed sonnet form always included 14 lines with a rhythm of iambic pentatmeter, although in the hands of 20th-century poets the form became less strict. Its subject matter often was light romance but it could also reflect a serious tone. The first popular sonnet form was called Petrarchan because of its use by the Latin poet Petrarch; it often focused on the female form and romance. The Petrarchan sonnet consists of a grouping of eight lines, an octave, which may outline a situation upon which the final six lines, a sestet, comments. Occasionally a white space appears between the two sets of lines. The octave's rhyming pattern is usually abbaabba, although that may be altered, while that of the sestet might contain two to three rhyme patterns, such as cdcdcd or cdecde. The octave might also offer the reader an idea, while the sestet follows with an example, or vice versa. Lady Mary Wroth's extraordinary sonnet sequence "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus" illustrates the Petrarchan technique. Sonnet 43 in this grouping offers an octave describing night as "welcome" to the speaker's "mind distressed," because of its nature as "Dark, heavy" and "sad." In the final sestet the speaker requests night's friendship, as she remains "as sad and dark as though canst be, / Hating all pleasure or delight of life." Thus the two can "live, companions without strife."
A second popular sonnet form is the Elizabethan or Shakespearean. While Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, is credited for inventing this alteration, Shakespeare popularized it. As does the Petrarchan, the Shakespearean sonnet contains 14 lines, usually in iambic pentatmeter, but with the form of three quatrains and a concluding couplet. The rhyme pattern is abab, cdcd, efef, and gg. It might offer three examples, followed by a summary statement, or three ideas, followed by an application of that idea. Robert Herrick commonly used the Shakespearean form, as seen in his "Delight in Disorder." Herrick offers several examples of disorder in dress in the first 12 lines, including "An erring lace," "A cuff neglectful," ribbons that "flow confusedly," a "tempestuous petticoat," and "A careless shoestring." His concluding couplet notes that these articles of disarray "do more bewitch me than when art / Is too precise in every part." Often employed to urge young women to romance, this form was also used for serious purpose, as in John Milton's somber Sonnets VII ("How Soon Hath Time") and XIX ("When I Consider How my Light is Spent").
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