To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars
Richard Lovelace, 1640
Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
A Fine Picture—The lovely Ophelia stands with her brother Laertes, who is armed to revenge the death of their father. Ophelia, driven mad by her love for Prince Hamlet, spends her days gathering wildflowers and singing strange songs. Here, her expression is blank and pathetic, while Laertes’ brotherly affection is shown in the way he draws her near and bends to see her face. “Hadst thou thy wits,” he cries, “and didst persuade revenge,/ It could not move thus.”
A Little Poetry—The “Lucasta” addressed in this poem was Lucy Shadwell, Lovelace’s fiancée. He did indeed leave her for war, fighting as a Cavalier in the English Civil War. When, by an error, his death was reported to her, Lucy married someone else.