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To Lucasta, Going to the Wars

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To Lucasta, Going to the Wars

At one point or another, we've always wondered and worried about what the people we love think of us. It is natural to want them to have a good impression of us. This is also true of the seventeenth-century cavalier poet, Richard Lovelace. He penned the poem 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' in an attempt to urge his beloved to not think poorly of him as he leaves her to go to war.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' at a glance

Written InLucasta (1649)
Written byRichard Lovelace (1617–57).
Form/StyleCavalier poetry.
MeterAlternating between tetrameter and trimeter with inconsistent metrical feet.
Rhyme schemeAlternating rhymes or ABAB.
Literary and poetic devicesApostrophe; alliteration; metaphor; paradox.
Frequently noted imageryBeing battle-ready.
ToneSing-song; ballad-like; persuasive.
Key themesLove; honour and chivalry.
MeaningThe speaker persuades his lover to not think poorly of him when he leaves her to go to war. He claims that he would not be worthy of her love if he did not fulfil his duty to his country and fellow soldiers.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': context

The poem, 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' was written by Richard Lovelace and published in his collection Lucasta in 1649. It is regarded as one of his most famous poems and it is a good example of cavalier poetry.

Pro tip: when discussing the context of a literary text or a poem, mull over the following questions:

  1. What was the poet's social standing? What were the poet's religious and political beliefs?
  2. How was the national and social environment around the poet when they composed the poem?
  3. What kind of a life did the poet lead? What was their family background?
  4. Is there a specific audience the poet wished to address?

The poem was likely penned when Lovelace was imprisoned due to political conflict. The poem nods to the personal sacrifices he made to remain true to his political and patriotic beliefs.

Cavalier poetry: characterised by a light-hearted tone, and subject matter that surrounds love, honour, chivalry and patriotism, all of which are evident in 'To Lucasta, going to the wars.'

Cavalier poets flourished in the seventeenth century. They made explicit their support of the reigning monarch, King Charles I and also received his patronage as they wrote poetry that greatly pleased him.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': analysis & meaning

We will first read the poem, then examine the literary and poetic devices employed, and finally, we will look at the key themes of the poem.

We recommend that you read the entire poem twice for an in-depth analysis. The first time is a close reading, involving a microscopic examination of each word and its connotations. The second reading should be a 'zooming out' that allows you to look at the broad strokes of the poem and its themes.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': the poem

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,

That from the nunnery

Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind

To war and arms I fly.

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.

Yet this inconstancy is such

As you too shall adore;

I could not love thee (Dear) so much,

Lov’d I not Honour more.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': summary

In the first stanza, the speaker addresses his beloved and requests her to not think poorly of him as he must leave her embrace and go to fight in a war.

In the second stanza, the poet evokes the image of a soldier who is battle-ready as he mounts his horse and is armed with his sword and shield. He states that he must display even more loyalty to his sword and shield as he meets his enemy than he does to his lover.

Finally, in the third stanza, the speaker argues that he would not be worthy of her love nor worthy of loving her if he did not fulfil his duty and remain loyal to his patriotic ideals.

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

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': form and structure

The poem, 'To Lucasta, going to the wars' consists of three quatrains (four-line stanzas), which are inconsistent in their metric feet but consistent in their rhyme and metric rhythm. The quatrains appear uncomplicated in their structure, as is characteristic of cavalier poetry, which is light-hearted and not lyrically complex.

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?

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': rhyme and meter

The poem is presented with a ballad rhyme and sounds like a song because of its alternating rhyme scheme (ABAB). The meter of the poem alternates between the tetrameter (a line with four metrical feet) and the trimeter (a line with three metrical feet). However, the lines do not have consistent metric feet.

For example, let's look at the meters in line one (the syllables in bold represent stressed syllables):

Tell me | not, Sweet, | I am | unkind

This line alone consists of a trochaic, spondaic, and iambic foot. Now, you might think that is a bit wack, so let's break it down.

Trochaic foot: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Examples include demon or shadow.

Spondaic foot: two stressed syllables. Examples include sunshine or faithful.

Iambic foot: an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Examples include belong or destroy.

The inconsistency in the metric feet and rhythm reflects the shifting loyalties of the speaker, and also his preoccupied state of mind because while he is presumably with his lover, he is thinking of the battle he must go into.

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': literary and poetic devices

Let's explore the literary devices that the poem uses.

Apostrophe

In poetry, an apostrophe is an instance where the speaker addresses an absent person, idea, or object.

In the poem, the speaker addresses 'Lucasta,' a woman he loves, whose presence is not perceived in the poem. We do not hear her speak nor are we privy to her thoughts, which indicates an apostrophe.

Think about what this apostrophe (or absence of Lucasta) might mean: are her opinions and feelings insignificant? Or does this show a resigned acceptance of the situation on her part, reflected in her silence?

Alliteration

An instance of alliteration is when a sound is repeated in quick succession in a line of poetry. Alliterations give the reader sonic pleasure when the poem is read out loud.

Examine the lines of the second stanza and note the alliterations in it (for example, 'first,' 'foe', and 'field'). How do these affect the reading of the poem? Is it possible that they reflect the speaker's excitement at the thought of going to battle?

Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech where an idea or an object is substituted for another to hint at a connection between the two. The metaphor adds a layer of meaning to the text.

In the first stanza, the 'nunnery' of the lover's 'chase breast' represents the lover's embrace, which the speaker must now leave to go into battle. The second stanza evokes an image of a battle with the soldier riding the horse into a field to meet his foe with a sword and shield, yet the words 'battle' or 'war' are not explicitly used.

This is an example of how the combination of 'foe,' 'sword' and 'shield' is a stand-in for war. Additionally, the term 'new mistress' is a metaphor for war. The speaker indicates that he must leave his mistress to embrace his 'new mistress' when he goes into war.

Paradox

A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. For example, calling a slice of cake 'awfully tasty' is a paradox, as 'awful' is seen as something negative, while 'tasty' is a positive attribute.

The last two lines of the poem are a paradox in the sense that the speaker would not be capable of true love and of loving Lucasta if he didn't love his principles and ideals as he did, which compel him to leave her as he goes into war.

Think about how this argument presents a contradiction: how does this show him to be worthy of love?

'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars': key themes

The main themes of the poem are love and honour and chivalry

Love

The speaker addresses his love for Lucasta and urges her to not think badly of him as he must leave her embrace. While he is committed to their love, he also loves his country and fellow countrymen and must fulfil his duties towards them. Near the end, the speaker nods to his ideals and code of honour by saying that were he not committed to his beliefs, he would not be worthy of love.

Honour and chivalry

The speaker is considerate of his lover in that he informs her that he must leave her to embrace his 'new mistress,' which is the war he must fight for his country to maintain his code of honour. In explaining this to her, he is chivalrous and dutiful, and also acknowledges that his leaving her may be seen as a 'betrayal' but he would not be worthy of her love were he to not fulfil his duty and conform to his patriotic ideals.

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars - Key takeaways

  • The poem, 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' was written by cavalier poet, Richard Lovelace and published in a collection titled Lucasta.
  • The speaker of the poem addresses his beloved and urges her to not think poorly of him as he must leave her to go into battle.
  • The poem thematically pits romantic love against patriotism and nods to the speaker's sacrifice of his romantic love to fulfil his duty to his fellow countrymen.
  • The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB.
  • The poem alternates between the tetrameter and trimeter but has inconsistent metric feet.
  • The main themes of the poem include love, honour, and chivalry.

Frequently Asked Questions about To Lucasta, Going to the Wars

The central idea of the poem is the conflict between romantic love and love for one's country.

The poem, 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' is a cavalier poem.

The paradox is presented in the final two lines of the poem, where the speaker claims that he would not be capable of loving Lucasta if he did not love his country and was not committed to his principles.

The poem was likely written when Richard Lovelace was imprisoned in 1648 and was published in 1649 in the collection Lucasta.

The poem 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' addresses the speaker's beloved, whom he persuades to not think badly of him as he leaves her to go to fight a war.

Final To Lucasta, Going to the Wars Quiz

Question

When was the poem 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' published?

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Answer

1649

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Question

What type of a poem is 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

Cavalier poetry

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Question

What is the tone of the poem?

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Answer

Persuasive

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Question

Which of the following is NOT a theme of 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

Marriage

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Question

What figure of speech is used to illustrate Lucasta's absence from the poem?

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Answer

Apostrophe

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Question

What is the rhyme scheme of the poem 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

ABAB

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Question

In which lines can the paradox in 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars' be found?

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Answer

The last two lines of stanza 3

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Question

Which metric foot is NOT found in the first line of 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

Pyrrhic foot

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Question

Which of the following sets of alliteration are NOT found in 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

Blood-Battle

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Question

Which of the following metrical lines is found in 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'?

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Answer

Trimeter

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