Monday, March 14, 2011

On 'To Lucasta, Going to the Wars'

In Richard Lovelace's poem, there is a contradiction in where the speaker's loyalties lie. On one hand the speaker is leaving his love to go to war. On the other hand the speaker claims his reasons for going to war are what have allowed him to love her in the first place.

In the poem war is referred to as "a new mistress" now being chased by the speaker. Referring to the war as a mistress makes it appear as though the speaker desires the war and is eager for it. The speaker is not sorrowful in his departure. The statement "to war and arms I fly" further emphasizes the excitement the speaker feels. Fly is not a verb that suggests any doubts or resistance when referring to leaving for war and arms. The grim realities of wartime rarely evoke such a response. This suggests that the speaker is young and naive, never having gone to war before. The speaker is glorifying the war and believes it is worth risking his love.

The speaker claims his going to war stems from his sense of honor. He further explains that it is this honor that has allowed him to love her. This reasoning forms a circular pattern in which his last statement of honor explains his first statement of leaving his love. This consoles his love by claiming that him leaving was inevitable. The qualities in him that made their love possible forces him to leave regardless of how good their relationship may be. The circular pattern could be interpreted as an emphasis on the fact that this has happened before and will happen again. As the circle continues to go around and around, there will be more wars, more men that leave, and more love that is lost. History repeats itself. This diminishes the sadness of the specific situation by broadening it through time.

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