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The Scrutiny

The Scrutiny

You may have heard of, experienced, or initiated someone being 'friend zoned', 'dumped', or 'ghosted', and Richard Lovelace proves to be a stone-cold heartbreaker with his poem 'The Scrutiny.' Read on to find out how this 17th-century poet managed to get out of romantic entanglements relatively unscathed.

'The Scrutiny': At a Glance

Written in1642
Written byRichard Lovelace (1617-1657)
Form/styleCavalier poetry
MeterIambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter
Rhyme schemeABABB
Literary and poetic devicesAlliteration, apostrophe, hyperbole, metaphor, simile
Frequently noted imageryBattle, pastoral landscape
ToneDramatic monologue, lighthearted
Key themesDesire, lust, virginity, infidelity
MeaningThe speaker responds to an accusation of infidelity from a woman he was romantically involved with. He rejects her by claiming that they should not 'rob' each other of the opportunity to be with other lovers.

Richard Lovelace's 'The Scrutiny': Context

The poem 'The Scrutiny' is composed by one of the most prominent cavalier poets, Richard Lovelace.

Cavalier poets are a group of poets that emerged under the reign of King Charles I in the 17th century. They made their support of the King explicit, particularly during the English Civil War (1642-1651). They wrote poetry that brought immense pleasure to the King, and he offered them his patronage in return. Cavalier poets celebrate life, love, honour, and chivalry in their poems. Their poems radiate a sense of joie de vivre and an appreciation of feminine beauty and camaraderie with fellow men.

With the poem's speaker adopting a carpe diem (seize the day) attitude and suggesting to a former lover that he can no longer commit to her, this poem can certainly qualify as cavalier poetry. It expresses an appreciation of feminine beauty, particularly when the speaker compares himself to a mineralist in search of 'treasure.' The materialistic viewpoint, regular rhythm and rhyme, and the elaborate metaphor further emphasise the 'cavalier' nature of this poem.

'The Scrutiny': Analysis

For an in-depth analysis of the poem, it is recommended that you read the entire poem twice. One reading should be a close reading which involves a microscopic examination of each word and its meaning. The other reading should be a 'zooming out' that allows you to look at the broad strokes of the poem and its themes. We will first read the poem, and then examine the literary and poetic devices employed by the poet. Finally, we will look at the key themes of the poem.

'The Scrutiny': Poem

I
Why should you sweare I am forsworn,
Since thine I vow’d to be?
Lady it is already Morn,
And ’twas last night I swore to thee
That fond impossibility.
II
Have I not lov’d thee much and long,
A tedious twelve houres space?
I must all other Beauties wrong,
And rob thee of a new imbrace;
Could I still dote upon thy Face.
III
Not, but all joy in thy browne haire,
By others may be found;
But I must search the blank and faire
Like skilfull Minerallist’s that sound
For Treasure in un-plow’d-up ground.
IV
Then, if when I have lov’d my round,
Thou prov’st the pleasant she;
With spoyles of meaner Beauties crown’d,
I laden will returne to thee,
Ev’n sated with Varietie.

'The Scrutiny': Summary

Pro tip: a brief summary is a good way to begin an essay about a poem. Without going into too much detail, write 4-5 sentences that outline the basic meaning or purpose of the poem. The details and complexities of the poem can be elaborated upon later in your essay.

In the poem, the speaker responds to an accusation of infidelity from a lover. He goes back on the promise of commitment he made in the throes of passion and suggests that it would be 'wrong' of him not to offer other 'Beauties' his love. He also encourages the lover to find other lovers of her own. He calls himself a 'mineralist' in search of treasure troves of more beauty, and he ends the poem by proclaiming that, after having loved other women, he will return to his lover if he finds her more beautiful.

'The Scrutiny': Form and Structure

Pro tip: when elaborating on the form or structure of a poem, think of the following:1. What is the meter and the rhyme scheme of the poem? Is it consistent? If there is a change, is it gradual or sudden? How does this change affect the way the poem reads?

2. Read the poem in its entirety. Do you notice any repetitions? Is a pattern emerging?

3. How does the form affect the reading of the poem? Does it influence the main subject or theme of the poem?

'The Scrutiny' is divided up into 4 stanzas with five lines each (cinquains). The steady rhyme and structure of the poem give it a song-like melody that is pleasurable to listen to when read out loud – which it presumably was in the court of King Charles I. This melodic sound is mirrored in the pleasure of the speaker at the thought of taking on different lovers. The speaker delivers the lines as a dramatic monologue with a light-hearted tone.

'The Scrutiny': Rhyme and Meter

The rhyme scheme of the poem is a consistent ABABB. Maintaining this rhyme scheme shows that the speaker remains in total control of his expression, thus mirroring his control of the relationship. The meter of the poem alternates between the iambic tetrameter (four repetitions of the iambic foot) and the iambic trimeter (three repetitions of the iambic foot), which adds to the song-like rhythm.

An iambic foot is a way to measure the lines of poetry. An iamb consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, for example, 'destroy' or 'belong'.

'The Scrutiny': Literary and Poetic Devices

Let us take a look at the devices used in this poem

Alliteration

In 'The Scrutiny', an instance of alliteration can be found in line 7. The repetitive sound of 't' in 'tedious' and 'twelve' gives an impression of boredom that the speaker presumably feels regarding the lover he addresses.

Alliteration refers to a group of words with the same initial sound at the beginning of the words in quick succession. An example of this is the tongue twister: 'sheep should sleep in a shed'.

Apostrophe

In 'The Scrutiny', the reader is aware that the speaker addresses a lover, but we don't hear the lover's words, and we aren't privy to their thoughts, thus marking the apostrophe in the poem. The absence of their thoughts or feelings indicates how little they matter to the speaker, who is in complete control of the poetic speech and of their relationship.

An instance of apostrophe in poetry is when an absent object or person is addressed in the poem.

Hyperbole

When the speaker in the second stanza declares 'twelve houres' as 'long,' it is clearly a hyperbole, since the lover was not aware that the speaker intends to only have a one-night-stand.

A hyperbole (pronounced hyper-blee) is an exaggeration. For example, when someone says 'this bag weighs a ton,' they imply that the bag is very heavy, and not that it literally weighs a ton.

Metaphor

In the final stanza of the poem, Lovelace compares a relationship to a battleground and sees his relationships with women as conquests. Continuing with this metaphor, the speaker asserts himself as the 'crowned' victor who returns with the 'spoils' of the war.

A metaphor is when an idea, object, or person is substituted for another to indicate similarities between the two.

Simile

In the poem 'The Scrutiny,' the speaker uses a simile to compare himself with a mineralist who is in search of a beautiful 'treasure,' indicating his desire to be with other beautiful women.

A simile is a comparison drawn between two objects, ideas, or persons.

'The Scrutiny': Key Themes

The key themes of the poem are desire and lust, virginity, and infidelity.

Desire, lust, and virginity

The speaker of the poem is driven by lust to reject the lover he addresses and break his commitment towards her. He desires to be with other women and refers to virgins in particular as 'un-plow'd-up ground' that he feels the need to explore. With these comments and comparisons, he sees women as objects, and he also gives the impression of belonging to a patriarchal society where virginity is deemed as something precious that he feels the need to 'conquer.' It seems that, as he has already slept with the lover he addresses, she has now lost her appeal and, therefore, the speaker begins to look elsewhere to find pleasure and love.

As an exercise, identify words and phrases above that are connected to the theme of desire, lust, and virginity. What do these tell you about the circumstances the poet lived in and the attitude towards women? How does the poet himself perceive women? How does he express desire and lust for them?

Infidelity

Having promised the lover his commitment to her, the speaker goes back on his promise after a night of passion, showing his fickle, lustful attitude towards her. When accused of infidelity, he does not deny the accusation, instead proclaiming that he is a mineralist in search of the treasure of beauty. He states that the lover should not expect him to be loyal to her, and that she ought to seek out other lovers for herself.

The Scrutiny (1642) - Key Takeaways

  • 'The Scrutiny' is a poem written by Richard Lovelace, who belongs to the school of cavalier poets.
  • The poem is about the speaker rejecting his lover from the previous night, as he wishes to take on other lovers.
  • The poem has a lighthearted tone and reads as a dramatic monologue
  • The poem consists of 4 cinquains.
  • The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABB and alternates between the iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.
  • The main themes of the poem are desire, lust, virginity, and infidelity.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Scrutiny

The poem is about the speaker breaking the promise of commitment to a lover as he wishes to take on other lovers.

The poem is written by Richard Lovelace.

Since the reader is only privy to the expressions and thoughts of the speaker, it reads like a dramatic monologue.

The speaker of the poem feels as if he and his promise of commitment to the lover he addresses is being critically examined, and his intentions scrutinised. While the tone of the speaker and his attitude towards the relationship is light hearted and dismissive, the title can be read as ironic, mocking the lover's scrutiny of the relationship that the speaker sees so casually.

Richard Lovelace was a cavalier poet. Cavalier poets celebrate life, love, honour, and chivalry in their poems. Their poems radiate a sense of joie de vivre and an appreciation of beauty (of women) and camaraderie with fellow men.

Final The Scrutiny Quiz

Question

When was the poem 'Scrutiny' by Richard Lovelace written?

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Answer

1642

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Question

What kind of a poem is 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Cavalier poem

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Question

Which of the following meter is NOT present in the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Iambic pentameter

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Question

Which of the following imagery is prominent in the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Pastoral landscape

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Question

How would you describe the tone of the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Light hearted

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Question

Which of the following is NOT a theme of the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Disease

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Question

What is the rhyme scheme of the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

ABABB

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Question

The poem 'Scrutiny' reads as a...?

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Answer

Dramatic monologue

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Question

Which of the following alliterative pairs is present in the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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Answer

Tedious - twelve

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Question

The poem 'Scrutiny' consists of 4 stanzas on 5 lines. These are called?

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Answer

Cinquain

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