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Suckling and Lovelace

by William J. Long

Sir John Suckling (1609-1642) was one of the most brilliant wits of the court of Charles I, who wrote poetry as he exercised a horse or fought a duel, because it was considered a gentleman's accomplishment in those days. His poems, "struck from his wild life like sparks from his rapier," are utterly trivial, and, even in his best known "Ballad Upon a Wedding," rarely rise above mere doggerel. It is only the romance of his life--his rich, brilliant, careless youth, and his poverty and suicide in Paris, whither he fled because of his devotion to the Stuarts--that keeps his name alive in our literature.

In his life and poetry Sir Richard Lovelace (1618-1658) offers a remarkable parallel to Suckling, and the two are often classed together as perfect representatives of the followers of King Charles. Lovelace's Lucasta, a volume of love lyrics, is generally on a higher plane than Suckling's work; and a few of the poems like "To Lucasta," and "To Althea, from Prison," deserve the secure place they have won. In the latter occur the oft-quoted lines:

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.