John Suckling – “Song” (“Why so pale and wan…), “Loving and Beloved”

I’ve just noticed that John Suckling disappeared from the 9th edition of the NAEL (that was not the first disappointment of this day). But I decided to have the best of two worlds, so I read the selection from the 8th edition. John Suckling was the epitome of the Cavalier: he blew his large inheritance on gambling and drinking, as well as putting a regiment of soldiers fighting for the king in nice uniforms, tried to free Strafford, ran away to Paris and died, allegedly killing himself. “Song” comes from Suckling’s forgotten tragedy “Aglaura” and it reverses the conventions of Petrarchan poetry. The speaker addresses a lover who suffers as the conventional love should – he is “pale and wan” and doesn’t speak much. The speaker argues logically that if looking well can’t win the love of this lady, neither can looking ill, and if nice words can’t win her, neither can silence. So stop this nonsense, if she can’t love you “nothing can make her/the devil take her!”

“Loving and Beloved” is a poem about the paradox that we rarely love and are loved by the same person. No honest man can ever love, because kings and lovers are alike in the respect, their chief job is to pretend. We love one person, but our love is not reciprocated, and in turn we are loved by somebody we don’t love. So which one wins, good nature or passion? Sometimes we fake love, and on other occasions we hide true love, and it’s hard to tell which one is harder. In the last stanza the poet asks god of love to take away his torches, because he is weary of his state and he would like to be an honourable man again.

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