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A Short Analysis of Richard Lovelace’s ‘The Scrutiny’

A reading of a classic poem

‘The Scrutiny’ is a poem by Richard Lovelace (1617-57), one of the leading Cavalier poets of the seventeenth century. The poem is essentially a defence of ‘playing the field’ and a renunciation of the poet’s former declaration of faithfulness to his lover. Below is ‘The Scrutiny’ and a few words by way of analysis.

The Scrutiny

Why should you swear I am forsworn,
Since thine I vowed to be?
Lady, it is already morn,
And ’twas last night I swore to thee
That fond impossibility.

Have I not loved thee much and long,
A tedious twelve hours’ space?
I must all other beauties wrong,
And rob thee of a new embrace,
Could I still dote upon thy face. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Sir Philip Sidney’s Sonnet 71: ‘Who will in fairest book of nature know’

A summary of a classic Sidney poem

Astrophil and Stella is one of Elizabethan poetry’s finest achievements. In 108 sonnets and a handful of songs, Sir Philip Sidney produced the first sustained sonnet sequence in English (though not, contrary to popular belief, the very first). Sonnet 71, beginning ‘Who will in fairest book of nature know / How virtue may best lodged in beauty be’, is one of the best-known poems from the latter half of the sequence (many of the ‘greatest hits’ in Astrophil and Stella are found in the first forty or so sonnets). Here is Sonnet 71, along with some notes towards an analysis of this intriguing and deftly crafted poem.

Who will in fairest book of Nature know
How virtue may best lodged in beauty be,
Let him but learn of love to read in thee,
Stella, those fair lines which true goodness show.
There shall he find all vices’ overthrow,
Not by rude force, but sweetest sovereignty
Of reason, from whose light those night-birds fly;
That inward sun in thine eyes shineth so.
And not content to be perfection’s heir
Thyself, dost strive all minds that way to move,
Who mark in thee what is in thee most fair;
So while thy beauty draws the heart to love,
As fast thy virtue bends that love to good.
But, ah, Desire still cries: ‘Give me some food.’ Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Henry Howard’s ‘In Cyprus Springs’

A summary of an early English sonnet

Although he gets the credit for it, William Shakespeare didn’t invent the Shakespearean sonnet. That specific poetic form – also known as the English sonnet – was instead the innovation of a Tudor courtier and poet named Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-47), who, as well as making Shakespeare’s Sonnets possible, also invented the verse form that would make Elizabethan drama possible: blank verse. The Bard had a lot to thank Henry Howard for.

‘In Cyprus Springs’ is the short title sometimes attached to the sonnet by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey which begins ‘In Cyprus springs whereas Dame Venus dwelt’. (We’ll come to the punctuation in a moment.) This is a curious poem, an example of the ‘lover’s complaint’, and deserving of closer analysis. First, here is the poem:

In Cyprus, springs (whereas Dame Venus dwelt)
A well so hot, that whoso tastes the same,
Were he of stone, as thawed ice should melt,
And kindled find his breast with fixed flame,
Whose moist poison dissolved hath my hate. Read the rest of this entry