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To Lucasta. Going Beyond The Seas. Analysis

Author: Poetry of Richard Lovelace Type: Poetry Views: 252

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If to be absent were to be

Away from thee;

Or that when I am gone,

You or I were alone;

Then my LUCASTA might I crave

Pity from blustring winde or swallowing wave.


But I'le not sigh one blast or gale

To swell my saile,

Or pay a teare to swage

The foaming blew-gods rage;

For whether he will let me passe

Or no, I'm still as happy as I was.


Though seas and land betwixt us both,

Our faith and troth,

Like separated soules,

All time and space controules:

Above the highest sphere wee meet,

Unseene, unknowne, and greet as angels greet


So then we doe anticipate

Our after-fate,

And are alive i'th' skies,

If thus our lips and eyes

Can speake like spirits unconfin'd

In Heav'n, their earthy bodies left behind.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Richard Lovelace: Song. To Lucasta, Going beyond the seas, 1649
The most immediately obvious feature of ‘To Lucasta’ is its striking heterometic layout, this engenders a changing metre throughout the poem conveying the speakers uneven incomplete thoughts and, contrary to the reassuring tone, a structurally evident insecurity about the subject matter, this relationship with his Lucasta.
The poem opens in the only way that it can go on isolated from its subject, speculatively. The word ‘if‘ immediately tells the reader that this poem is not about something right in front of the speaker but something that he must address in abstraction which creates a distance between the poet and his subject that must be mediated. This mediation is undertaken in the form of a syllogism whereby the fact of his parting by ‘land and sea’ from his Lucasta and the ‘troth’ between them equate to a likely need to meet as ‘heavenly bodies’. By this both speaker and subject are elevated over the status of even their own current understanding to be ‘as angels’ ‘unseen, unknown’. This sublimation or place of ‘life in the skies’ recalls the platonic realm where all is as is intended, pure in form and self evident in clarity. This is a clarity which the speaker seems to long for and is even prepared to ‘leave behind his earthy body’ to achieve; thus validating his evident love for his ‘troth’d subject which is as yet ephemeral and undefined.
There is an ever present threat of loneliness through ‘absence’ or a fear of dereliction which is what drives the first section of this logically structured argument. The underlying syllogistic structure is complimented by the steady rhymed couplets and unbroken if heterometic sestets that persist throughout the piece. Taking this regular form gives a pace and a progress-inducing neatness to the reading despite its clearly emotional content and non homologous line lengths. There is a point of constancy about the whole poem however as every second line of each stanza contains only four syllables where
Words with natural connotations add great weight to the promise or ‘Troth’ of line 14. The speaker’s willingness to be faithful to the poems ultimate subject, this bond or troth, is made all the more potent by his defiance of this invoked elemental resistance of ‘blustering winde, or swallowing wave’. The word Troth carries another interesting connotation and does not simply mean ‘One's faith as pledged or plighted in a solemn agreement or undertaking’ (OED1) but can also mean a ‘belief; spec. a form of religious belief, a creed’ (OED2) Further, the speakers use of this pathetic fallacy emphasises his connection to a divine order, a theme that remains prevalent throughout. This divine undertone gives weight to his mention of meeting up in heaven, and the anticipation of an ‘after-fate’ which circumvents or somehow outranks in importance his current doom. Further legitimisation comes from the several overwrought almost outlandish phrases aggrandizing his personal investment. This self aggrandizement is evidenced in the second stanza where he states that he will not even
[…] pay a teare to swage
The foaming blue-Gods rage; 10
As though his tears signify the loss of the faith in his commitment, which would necessitate his paying for the gods mercy, so that he could see the object of his affection one more time. The implication being that the avoidance of such tears, such an obvious surrender of his values is far more valuable than the peace of the gods or even his own life.
The third stanza is markedly more broken up than the first two, the injection of the semi colon, the pause at the end of a pivotal point serves to break the thus far hasty enthusiasm with which the speaker has expounded on his vow. The pause has the effect of delaying the the next lines rhyme, and in so doing, slowing the terms of the poem from immediacy and a very present passion to a meditative culmination to the stanza. This is supported by the list of states in which he and his subject will exist. The ‘unseen’ and the ‘unknown’ coupled with the ‘control of time and space’ further serve to mystify and indeed deify the speaker’s intentions and leave the verse final rhyme as a far more reflective echo.
The final stanza compounds the speaker’s bravery displaying the same bold indifference to death and consequence right until the very end. Leaving the ‘earthy bonds’ seems when left like this almost an inevitability but certainly one that the voice is eager to demonstrate that he has come to be at peace with as he states that
whether he will let me passe
Or no, I'm still as happy as I was. 12
The implication being that the gods could not break his commitment to this vow and that his happiness and fulfilment are bound up in its realisation. This infallible almost unhuman certitude and direction characterise the whole poem, there are slower moments with multi syllabic words, longer lines and punctuation slowing the pace, invoking a reflective tone but the wording, unlike the structure, never betrays so much as a moment of implied doubt in the argumentation.
Lewis Bowyer
Newcastle University
• Lux casta: light in the darkness of prison

| Posted on 2009-11-09 | by a guest

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