Richard Lovelace – “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars”, “The Grasshopper”

Another Cavalier poet, this time more serious about love than Suckling. In his poem “To Lucasta” the poet juxtaposes two lovers: the woman, from whose “nunnery of thy chaste breast” he flies to war, another mistress. But Lucasta has to understand that his going off to fight can only contribute to her high opinion of his character, because, as Lovelace writes famously, “i could not love thee, dear, so much/Loved I not honour more”.

“The Grasshopper” plays with the allusions to the classical fable of Aesop about the grasshopper and the ant as well as with the allusions to the winter of Puritanism coming. The first three stanzas are about the grasshopper’s carefree life – swinging on the blade of corn, sleeping in a tiny bed of acorn and giving joy to himself, men and “melancholy streams”. But unfortunately Winter Is Coming, the corn is cut down by scythes and what is left will be nipped by frost. The moral of the grasshopper’s story is to collect the supplies, especially of wine, to survive winter. Among friends and with help of wine, we can create our own summer and the North Wind is going to fly away from the burning Etna of our friendship. Drooping December shall come in, complaining about the usurping of his reign, but he shall have his crown again, writes Lovelace, alluding both to Christmas celebrations when a “king” was elected but also possibly to the royalist yearning for Charles II to get back his crown. We are going to be richer than kings, because we ask for nothing and thus need nothing; the poorest man in the world is the one who lacks himself.

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