(1640) Thomas Carew's "Disdaine Returned" falls firmly into the Cavalier poet tradition. Its light, lyrical feel is intended, as Carew and his contemporaries at the court of Charles II focused mainly on themes of love: love thwarted, love accepted, love disdained, love engendered, love proposed, love rejected. Heightened emotion became their goal, and they achieved it through a musical cadence that allowed many of their poems to be set to music, as was true of much lyric verse. The poetry often featured romantic games played by an idealized female and the male voice that explained the give and take between a couple. Carew formats his three stanzas with varying length, the first two composed of six lines and the third of eight. The rhyme scheme also varies, with the first two stanzas adhering to an ababcc format and the third formatted ababccdd. The rhyme variance allows sound to support sense, as Carew's poem features a shift in feeling from admiration to disdain.
The speaker of "Disdaine Returned" begins with the familiar conceit of a catalog of female body parts, the beauty of each revealed through figurative language (figure of speech), or comparison. The cheek is compared to a rose, the lip to coral, and the eyes to stars. The speaker cautions that "He" who seeks such attractions as "Fuel to maintain his fires" must remain aware that "As old Time makes these decay, / So his flames must waste away." In the second stanza, Carew departs from the traditional carpe diem theme for which Cavalier poets gained fame, preaching the preference of a "smooth, and stedfast mind, / Gentle thoughts, and calme desires" over that of changeable beauty. While the coral may fade from lips and the rosy glow from cheeks, "Hearts, with equall love combind / Kindle never dying fires." The speaker urges equality between lovers, favoring its longevity. Where these elements prove absent, the speaker declares, "I despise / Lovely cheeks, or lips, or eyes." In the final stanza the speaker boldly addresses Celia, Carew's favorite female persona, making clear that her tears will prove useless in
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convincing his "resolv'd heart to returne." Celia has apparently rejected the speaker as a lover. He has "searcht" her soul and found "nought, but pride, and scorne," in addition having learned her "arts." Those discoveries afford him strength to "disdaine" Celia in the same way she has disdained him. He concludes by admitting that having conveyed as part of his revenge his love to her, he does lose a bit of his power. However, the poem claims victory for the speaker. His lack of regret over the loss of Celia proves his resolve to find a greater worth in constancy than beauty.
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