Our times are much degenerate from those
Which your sweet muse, which your good fortune chose;
And as complexions alter with the climes,
Our wits have drawn the infection of our times,
That candid Age no other way could tell
To be ingenious, but by speaking well.
Who best could praise had then the greatest praise;
’Twas more esteemed to give than wear the bays.
Modest Ambition studied only then
To honour, not herself, but worthy men.
These virtues now are banished out of town,
Our civil wars have lost the civic crown.
He highest builds who with most art destroys,
And against others’ fame his own employs.
I see the envious caterpillar sit
On the fair blossom of each growing wit.
The air’s already tainted with the swarms
Of insects, which against you rise in arms.
Word-peckers, paper-rats, book-scorpions,
Of wit corrupted, the unfashioned sons.
The barbèd censurers begin to look
Like the grim Consistory on thy book;
And on each line cast a reforming eye,
Severer than the young Presbytery.
Till when in vain they have thee all perused,
You shall for being faultless be accused.
Some reading your Lucasta will allege
You wronged in her the Houses’ privelege;
Some that you under sequestration are,
Because you write when going to the war;
And one the book prohibits, because Kent
Their first petition by the author sent.
But when the beauteous ladies came to know
That their dear Lovelace was endangered so;
Lovelace, that thawed the most congealèd breast,
He who loved best, and them defended best,
Whose hand so rudely grasps the steely brand,
Whose hand so gently melts the lady’s hand;
They all in mutiny, though yet undressed,
Sallied, and would in his defence contest.
And one, the loveliest that was yet ere seen,
Thinking that I too of the rout had been,
Mine eyes invaded with a female spite
(She knew what pain ’twould be to lose that sight).
O no, mistake not, I replied: for I
In your defence, or in his cause, would die;
But he, secure of glory and of time,
Above their envy or mine aid doth climb.
Him valiant’st men and fairest nymphs approve,
His book in them finds judgement, with you, love.
Printed in “Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs, &c; to which is added Aramantha, a Pastorall. By Richard Lovelace, Esq., 1649.”
Lovelace (1618- 1658) was one of the most charming of the Cavalier poets, and these lines contain a repudiation of a charge that Marvell was among those who had attacked him.
l.21. Joseph Caryl and others.
l.32. In March, 1642, a petition from Kent, praying for a restoration of the bishops, liturgy, and common prayer, was voted seditious at a conference of both Houses, and ordered to be barnt by the common hangman. On the 3ath of April a similar petition was presented, and Lovelace, who introduced it, was imprisoned. He was released after seven weeks, on finding bail.
l.34. Anthony Wood says that at the age of sixteen, when Lovelace matriculated at Gloucester Hall, Oxford, he was “much admired and adored by the female sex,” — “but especially after, when he retired to the great city.” In 1636, through the intercession of a great lady, the degree of M.A. was given to Lovelace after only two years’ residence.
Last updated Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 11:14