Richard Lovelace

From Lucasta,
Going to the Wars

  • Tell me not, (sweet,) I am unkinde,
  • That from the nunnerie
  • Of thy chaste breast and quiet minde
  • To warre and armes I flie.
  • True: a new Mistresse now I chase,
  • The first foe in the field;
  • And with a stronger faith imbrace
  • A sword, a horse, a shield.
  • Yet this inconstancy is such
  • As you too shall adore;
  • I could not love thee,Dear, so much,
  • Lov’d I not Honour more.
  • The Grasshopper

    To My Noble Friend, Mr. Charles Cotton[1]

  • O thou that swing’st upon the waving eare[2]
  • Of some well-fillèd oaten beard,[3]
  • Drunk ev’ry night with a delicious teare[4]
  • Dropped thee from Heav’n, where now th’ art reared.
  • The joyes of earth and are are thine intire,
  • That with thy feet and wings dost hop and flye;
  • And, when thy poppy workes, thou dost retire
  • To thy carv’d acorn-bed to lye.
  • Up with the day, the Sun thou welcomst then,
  • Sportst in the guilt plats[9] of his beams,
  • And all these merry dayes mak’st merry men[5],
  • Thyself, and melancholy streams.
  • But ah, the sickle! Golden ears are cropt;
  • Ceres and Bacchus bid good night;
  • Sharp, frosty fingers all your flowrs have topt
  • And what scythes spar’d, winds shave off quite.
  • Poore verdant fool, and now green ice! thy joys,
  • Large and as lasting as thy peirch of grasse,
  • Bid us lay in ‘gainst winter rain, and poise
  • Their floods with an o’erflowing glasse.
  • Thou best of men and friends? we will create
  • A genuine summer in each others breast,
  • And spite of this cold Time and frozen Fate,
  • Thaw us a warme seat to our rest.
  • Our sacred harthes shall burne eternally,
  • As vestal flames; the North-wind, he
  • Shall strike his frost-stretchd wings, dissolve, and flye
  • This Etna in epitome.
  • Dropping December shall come weeping in,
  • Bewaylel th’ usurping of his raigne:
  • But when in showers of old Greeke[6] we beginne,
  • Shall crie, he hath his crowne again!
  • Night, as clear Hesper, shall our tapers whip
  • From the light casements, where we play,
  • And the dark hagge from her black mantle strip,
  • And stick there everlasting day.
  • Thus richer than untempted kings are we,
  • That, asking nothing, nothing need:
  • Though lords of all what seas imbrace, yet he
  • That wants himselfe is poor indeed.
  • To Althea, from Prison

    Song Set By Dr. John Wilson[7]

  • When Love with unconfined wings
  • Hovers within my gate;
  • And my divine Althea brings
  • To whisper at the grates;
  • When I lye tangled in her haire[8],
  • And fettered to her eye[9],
  • The birds[10] that wanton in the aire,
  • Know no such Liberty.
  • When flowing cups run swiftly round
  • With no allaying Thames,
  • Our carelesse heads with roses bound,
  • Our hearts with loyal flames;
  • When thirsty grief in wine we steepe,
  • When Healths and draughts go free,
  • Fishes, that tipple in the Deep
  • Know no such libertie.
  • When (like committed linnets[11]) I
  • With shriller throat shall sing
  • The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
  • And glories of my King;
  • When I shall voice aloud how good
  • He is, how great should be,
  • Inlarged winds, that curl the flood,
  • Know no such Liberty.
  • Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
  • Nor Iron bars a cage;
  • Mindes innocent and quiet take
  • That for an hermitage;
  • If I have freedom in my ove,
  • And in my soule am free,
  • Angels alone that soar above,
  • Enjoy such liberty.
  • Love Made in the First Age.
    To Chloris

  • In the nativity of time,
  • Chloris! it was not thought a crime
  • In direct Hebrew for to woe.
  • Now wee make love, as all on fire,
  • Ring retrograde our lowd desire,
  • And court in English backward too.
  • Thrice happy was that golden age,
  • When complement was constru’d rage,
  • And fine words in the center hid;
  • When cursed no stain’d no maid’s blisse,
  • And all discourse was summ’d in yes,
  • And nought forbad, but to forbid.[12]
  • Love then unstinted love did sip,
  • And cherries pluck’d fresh from the lip,
  • On cheeks and roses free he fed;
  • Lasses, like Autumne plums, did drop,
  • And lads indifferently did drop
  • A flower and a maiden-head.
  • Then unconfined each did tipple
  • Wine from the bunch, milk from the nipple;
  • Paps tractable as udders were.
  • Then equally the wholsome jellies
  • Were squeez’d from olive-trees and bellies:
  • Nor suits of trespasse did they fear.
  • A fragrant bank of strawberries,
  • Diaper’d with violets’ eyes,
  • Was table, table-cloth and fare;
  • No palace to the clouds did swell,
  • Each humble princesse then did dwell
  • In the Piazza of her hair.
  • Both broken faith and th’ cause of it,
  • All-damning gold, was damn’d to th’ pit;
  • Their troth seal’d with a clasp and kisse,
  • Lasted until that extreem day,
  • In which they smil’d their souls away,
  • And in each other breath’d new blisse.
  • Because no fault, there was no tear;
  • No grone did grate the granting ear,
  • No false foul breath, their del’cat smell.
  • No serpent kiss poyson’d the tast,
  • Each touch was naturally chast,
  • And their mere Sense a Miracle.
  • Naked as their own innocence,
  • And unembroyder’d from offence,
  • They went, above poor riches, gay;
  • On softer than the cignet’s down,
  • In beds they tumbled off their own:
  • For each within the other lay.
  • Thus did they live: thus did they love,
  • Repeating only joyes above,
  • And angels were but with cloaths on,
  • Which they would put off cheerfully,
  • To bathe them in the Galaxie,
  • Then gird them with the heavenly zone.
  • Now, Chloris! miserably crave
  • The offer’d blisse you would not have,
  • Which evermore I must deny:
  • Whilst ravish’d with these noble dreams,
  • And crowned with mine own soft beams,
  • Injoying of my self I lye.
  • Annotation

    1. Charles Cotton the elder, father of the poet‘ He died in 1658. This poem is extracted in c’ensura Literaria, ix. 352, as a favourable specimen of Lovelace’s poetical genius. The text is manifestly corrupt, but I have endeavoured to amend it. In Elton’s Specimens of Classic Poets, 1814, i. 148, is a trans lation of Anacreon’s Address to the Cicada, or Tree-Locust (Lovelace’s grasshopper ?), which is superior to the modern poem, being less prolix, and more natural in its manner. In all Lovelace’s longer pieces there are too many obscure and feeble conceits, and too many evidences of a leaning to the metaphysical and antithetical school of poetry.

    2. Original has haire.

    3. i. e. a heard of oats

    4. Meleager’s invocation to the tree-locust commences thus in Elton’s translation :— “ Oh shrill-voiced insect! that with dew-drops sweet lnebriate ” See also Cowley’s Anacreontiques, No. X. The Grasshopper

    5. i. e. horizontal lines tinged with gold. See Halliwell’s‘ Glossary of Archaic Words, 1860, art. PLAT (seventh and eighth meaning). The late editors of Nares cite this passage from Lucasta as an illustration of guilt-plats, which they define to be “plots of gold.” This definition, unsupported by any other evidence, is not very satisfactory, and certainly it has no obvious application here. * Randolph says :— “ toiling ants perchance delight to hear The summer musique of the gras-hopper.” Poems, 1640, p. 90. It is a question, perhaps, whether Lovelace intended by the grasshopper the cicada or the locusta. See Sir Thomas Browne’s Inquiries into Vulgar Errors (Works, by Wilkins, 1836, iii. 93).

    6. Perch.

    7. The first stanza of this famous song is harmonized in Chemjfull Ayres or Ballads: First composed jbr one single voice, and since set for three voices‘ By John Wilson, Dr. in Music, Professor of the same in the University of Oxford. Oxford, 1660 (Sept. 20, 1659), 4to. p. 10. I have sometimes thought that, when Lovelace composed this production, he had in his recollection some of the sentiments in Wither’s Shepherds Hunting, 1615. See, more particularly, the sonnet (at p. 248 of Mr. Gutch’s Bristol edition) commencing: “I that er’st while the world’s sweet air did draw.”

    8. Peele, in King David and Fair Bethsabe, 1599, has a similar figure, where David says :- “ Now comes my lover tripping like the roe, And brings my longings tangled in her hair.” The “ lover ” is of course Bethsabe.

    9. Thus Middleton, in his More Dissemblers besides Women, printed in 1657, but written before 1626, says : “ But for modesty, I should fall foul in words upon fond man, That can forget his excellence and honour, His serious meditations, being the end Of his creation, to learn well to die; And live a prisoner to a woman’s eye.”

    10. Original reads gods; the present word is substituted in ac— cordance with a MS. copy of the song printed by the late Dr. Bliss, in his edition of Woods Athena. If Dr. Bliss had been aware of the extraordinary corruptions under which the text of LUCASTA laboured, he would have had less hesitation in adopt ing birds as the true reading. The “ Song to Althea,” is a fa vourable specimen of the class of composition to which it belongs; but I fear that it has been over-estimated.

    11. Percy very unnecessarily altered like committed Zinnets to linnet-like confined (Percy’s Reliques, ii. 247 ; Moxon’s ed.) Ellis (Specimens of Early English Poets, ed. 1801, iii. 252) says that this latter reading is “ more intelligible.” It is not, however, either what Lovelace wrote, or what (it may be presumed) he intended to write, and nothing, it would seem, can be clearer than the passage as it stands, committed signifying, in fact, nothing more than confined. It is fortunate for the lovers of early English literature that Bp- Percy had comparatively little to do with it. Emeudation of a text is well enough; but the wholesale and arbitrary slaughter of it is quite another matter.

    12. This and the succeeding stanza are omitted by Mr. Singer in his reprint.


    Lovelace, Richard. Lucasta: The Poems of Richard Lovelace, Esq. Ed. W. Carew Hazlitt. London: John Russell Smith, 1864. HathiTrust. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>


    Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

    Anthology of Medieval Literature Copyright © 2021 by Christian Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    Share This Book