Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lovelace - Poetry

The next poem is 'To Althea, from Prison' by Richard Lovelace.  He was briefly imprisoned during the English Civil war and wrote this then.

WHEN Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair
And fetter'd to her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free—
Fishes that tipple in the deep
Know no such liberty.

When, like committed linnets,
I With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlargèd winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

The first part is a little too airy for my tastes.  And it reads very strange to me to mix love of sweetheart and love of king.  Of course, these are different times and I won't judge someone too harshly who is literally imprisoned during a civil war for sucking up to the powers that be.
I do like the defiance of the last stanza quite a bit.  I'm certain that many politcal prisoners over the years have taken heart from it.  'Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage'.  Yes, indeed yes.

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