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Lucasta, Gratiana, and the Amatory Wit of Lovelace With renewal of interest in the courtly culture of Charles I has come reassessment of the cavalier poets. H o w their verses in part express, in part create the culture of their embattled world has been much considered; critical attention has focused especially on how the cavalier poets reflect or respond to the social and political pressures of their revolutionary times. Particularly that critical concern has enlarged our understanding of Lovelace, w h o is seen no longer as merely a gentleman singing gallantly of love and loyalty but as the cavalier poet who most coherently analyzes social and political threats to, or problems within, the fragile courtly world.1 What has not been sufficiently recognized is, however, that just as elemental - rather than superficial - courtly attitudes and values can be seen in Lovelace's poems of social and political analysis, so they can also be seen in his more intimate, amatory poems. That is to say, the public and private aspects of his wit both express royalist ideology: Lovelace's wit in his verse indicates a perception of experience which, whilst insistently individual,repeatedlyand deliberately affirms a wholly royalist vision of reality. To the casual reader it might seem that the royalist element of Lovelace's amatory poems lies in their elegant ingenious conforming of intimate passion to the courtly rules of love made fashionable by Henrietta Maria.2 N o w in an obvious sense that observation is true, but it lacks precision and completeness, being in fact as misleading as it is familiar. In this essay I want to suggest that whilst Lovelace's poems may at times use fashionable rules of love as the source of a convenient language for describing emotion or as a cluster of acceptable guidelines for supposedly directing passion, his analysis of passion can go beyond so shallow a courtliness. Through elemental courtly principles, such as those describing ideal womanhood or manhood, Lovelacefictionallydefines both the essential qualities of love and the roles that those in love will primarily enact. Lovelace, in other words, uses royalist ideology to represent what love 'The prime mover was, in effect D.C. Allen in his, A n Explication of Lovelace's 'The Grassehopper', Modern Language Quarterly 18, 1957, 35-43. See also Bruce King, Green Ice and a Breast of Proof, College English 26, 1965, 511-515; A.D. Cousins, The Cavalier World and John Cleveland, Studies in Philology 78, 1981, 61-86, especially 73-74. 2 He can also use older Petrarchan conventions, or conventions from the sixteenthcentury poem of pastoral love. For examples of the former, see: "To Amarantha, That she would dishevell her haire", lines 11-12; "Dialogue. Lucasta, Alexis", lines 17-18; "Sonnet", line 10. A good instance of the latter can be seen in 'To Amarantha, That she would dishevell her haire", stanzas v-vi. Other inherited courtly conventions sometimes appear. Reference to Lovelace is from Wilkinson's edition, cited below. 98 AD. Cousins itself finally is. To demonstrate that reference will be made to a number of Lovelace's poems concerning either Lucasta or Gratiana; however, discussion will focus initially and chiefly on 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wanes", for that deceptively familiar poem indicates most forcibly how profound the royalism of his amatory verse indeed is. In that poem of farewell to Lucasta, the Lovelace persona at once celebrates her attractiveness and justifies his departure from her.3 Those opposites, attraction and departure, are the basis of the dialectic informing the poem, for it unfolds as divisio: the separation, evaluation, and resolution of alternatives. The royalist values within that dialectic become clear only when one begins to trace its progress: Tell m e not (Sweet) I am unkinde, That from the Nunnerie Of thy chaste breast and quiet minde, To W a n e and Armes I flie.4 That graceful, admonitory opening forms the preoccupatio to the ante occupatio which the lyric as a whole enacts through its dialectical design. Within the preoccupatio it is the "Nunnerie" conceit (lines 2-3) that leads to the heart of the matter with that curious image the wit of Lovelace's poem...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 97-104
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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