Katherine Philips gained a reputation for her same-sex love poetry, which circulated in manuscript form for the most part. Her open admiration of her women friends found approval among her own circle of acquaintances, both male and female, the members of whom she assigned classical names. Anne Owen, viscountess of Dungannon, was the Lucasia of "To My Excellent Luca-sia, on Our Friendship," one of many poems dedicated to her. Philips incorporated metaphysical aspects in much of her work, including this piece. Four lines constitute each of six stanzas, arranged in an alternating rhyme pattern of abab, cdcd, and so on.
In the first stanza the speaker claims not to have lived until "this time / Crowned my felicity." Philips establishes a metaphor using the term crown to suggest royalty, figurative language (figure of speech) that will recur later in the poem. The speaker notes that she can claim without falsehood, "I am not thine, but thee." In suggesting that she has no existence of her own but exists only in her friend, Philips injects a metaphysical essence into the poem. The second stanza refers to the speaker's body as a "carcass," suggesting death, "a soul the motions kept," meaning the soul controlled bodily movements, thereby deceiving those who observed. Philips next adopts the figurative language of simile in the third stanza, as she compares her mechanical movements prior to meeting Lucasia to the works of a watch, powered by artificial means. The speaker lacked a true soul until she found that of Lucasia to make her own. In the fourth stanza the speaker describes the soul as something that "inspires, cures and supplies, / And guides my darkened breast," with the friendship her dearest "prize," her "joy . . . life . . . rest." The speaker notes in the penultimate stanza that neither "bridegroom nor crown-conqueror"—the second reference meaning a warlike king and echoing her initial mention of a crown—can compare his mirth, or satisfaction, to her own. They own "pieces of the earth," but the speaker has "all the world" in Lucasia. Philips concludes with a reference to "flames" as the passion shared by the two women. The flames remain uncontrolled by any "false fear" but are "As innocent as our design," or intention, and "Immortal as our soul."
Although some queer theorists have analyzed Philips as writing with sexual intent, other critics deny her tone suggests an erotic relationship between the speaker and Lucasia. Rather her passion resembles a religious attachment, revealed by the multiple references to the soul by a highly religious poet.
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