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To Lucasta, going to the Wars
A Poem by Richard Lovelace
A Study Guide
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Type of Work, Publication
The Author: Poet, Soldier
Who Is Lucasta?
Theme: 2 Interpretations
Meter
End Rhyme
Internal Rhyme
Tone
Text With Notes
Figures of Speech
Questions, Writing Topics
Biography
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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings... 2010
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Type of Work, Publication

......."To Lucasta, going to the Wars" is a lyric poem in which a young man explains to his beloved why he must leave her to go to war. It was first published in 1649 in To Lucasta, a collection of Lovelace's poems.

The Author: a Poet and Soldier

.......Richard Lovelace (1618-1657) was a dashing, handsome, well-educated English gentleman who, as a soldier and poet, strongly defended Britain's King Charles I during the Bishops' Wars in Scotland (1639-1640) and the English Civil Wars (1642-1651). Lovelace held inherited estates in Kent and freely used his personal resources to support the king's causes. He became famous as one of the cavalier poets, who were refined, cultured, fashionably dressed gentlemen—the very definition of cavalier..

Who Is Lucasta?

.......The identity of the woman to whom Lovelace addresses the poem is uncertain; she may even have been a product of Lovelace's imagination. However, evidence suggests she was Lucy Sacheverell, whom he sometimes called by the Latin name Lux Casta. Lux, a noun, means light; casta, an adjective, means chaste, moral, virtuous, pure, sacred. Thus, Lux Casta may be translated as Pure Light or Sacred Light.

Theme

One Interpretation

.......The theme of the poem is the importance of honor and duty. The speaker asks his beloved not to think harshly of him for leaving her side to go to war. He could not love her as much as he does, he says, if he dishonored himself by failing to answer the call to duty. 

Another Interpretation

.......The speakerlike many other young men of his age or any ageis eager for a little derring-do to prove his mettle. But he is worried that his love will think less of him if he leaves her side. The theme, then, is that a man sometimes must sweet-talk his beloved in order to get his way. 

Meter

.......Most of the feet in the poem are iambs. The lines alternate between tetrameter and trimeter. Lines 3 and 4 demonstrate the pattern:

.....1....................2.....................3...............4
Of THY..|..chaste BREAST..|..and QUI..|..et MIND

.....1.................2...............3
To WAR..|..and ARMS..|..I FLY

End Rhyme

.......In each stanza the first line rhymes with the third and the second with the fourth.

Internal Rhyme

Examples of rhyming sounds within are the following:

Line 1:...Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind, 
Line 2:...from the nunnery
Line 5:...True, a new
Line 7:...faith embrace 
Line 8:...A sword, a horse, a shield. 
Line 10: thou too shalt adore
Tone 

.......The tone of the poem is light and pleasant.
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To Lucasta, going to the Wars
By Richard Lovelace
Text and Notes

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind, 
  That from the nunnery1
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind 
  To war and arms I fly.............................

True, a new mistress2 now I chase,
  The first foe in the field; 
And with a stronger faith embrace 
  A sword, a horse, a shield.....................

Yet this inconstancy3 is such 
  As thou too shalt adore;   10
I could not love thee, Dear, so much, 
  Loved I not Honour more........................12
 

Notes

1...nunnery: Convent or cloister for nuns.
2...mistress: War, combat; the enemy.
3..inconstancy: Unfaithfulness or inattention.
 

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Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.

Alliteration

Line 5:..a new mistress now I chase
Line 6:..The first foe in the field
Line 9:..this inconstancy is such
Anaphora
Line 8: A sword, a horse, a shield
Metaphor
Lines 2-3: That from the nunnery 
...............Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind 
Comparison of the young woman's body (breast) and mind to the peace and serenity of a nunnery 

Line 5-6: True, a new mistress now I chase,
..............The first foe in the field
Comparison of the enemy to a mistress

Line 11-12: I could not love thee, Dear, so much, 
.................Loved I not Honour more.
Implied comparison of Honour to a beloved woman. (Note that Honour is capitalized, 
like Dear, making it a rival for the speakers affections
 

Study Questions and Writing Topics

1. Write a short poem centering on honor or duty. 
2. Read the entries under Theme. Then tell your classmates and teacher the interpretation with which you agree. Explain your answer.
3. Do you believe most young men today feel the same way as the speaker about answering the call of military duty? Explain your answer.
4. Write an essay comparing and contrasting "To Lucasta" with "Anthem for Doomed Youth."

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