Study Guide

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars Quotes

By Richard Lovelace

  • Love

    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly. (2-4)

    The speaker describes a very pure form of love, one in which sex plays little to no part; the "breast" are "chaste," and the speaker compares them to a "nunnery," a place associated with the surrender of sexual desire (and the potential for boyfriends and husbands) and the acceptance of a life of religious solitude.

    True, a new mistress now I chase,
    The first foe in the field; (5-6)

    The speaker equates Lucasta and his enemy in battle; they are both "mistresses" of his. This equivalence suggests that there is something similar about chasing an enemy and loving a woman. This could either suggest that there is something sentimental about war or something violent about love. Either way, it's not the most flattering comparison.

    And with a stronger faith embrace
    A sword, a horse, a shield. (7-8)

    We have to wonder just a little at the fact that the speaker embraces the instruments of war with a "stronger faith" than he shows towards his lover. Is this because at heart he loves battle more, or is that war brings out a "stronger faith" that other aspects of life just can't?

    Yet this inconstancy is such,
    As you too shall adore; (9-10)

    The speaker offers a strange paradox here: he claims that Lucasta will "adore" his betrayal, his inability to stay with her. The lines imply, perhaps, that true love is able to endure disappointment and inconstancy, even though we might not expect it to be able to do so.

    I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
    Loved I not honour more. (11-12)

    What's with all the negatives here? (As in "could not" and "Loved I not.") Can the speaker not positively describe his love?

  • Principles

    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly. (1-4)

    The opening of the poem takes the form of a justification: the speaker is eager to explain his decisions and the principles of honor that inform them. While they may seem "unkind," the speaker is at pains to prove that they have a purpose. The rhyme on "fly" and "nunnery" equates his love of Lucasta with the fleeing to war in an ingenious way.

    Yet this inconstancy is such,
    As you too shall adore; (9-10)

    The speaker almost suggests that normally bad qualities—like "inconstancy"—can take on a new association when they are motivated by something as praiseworthy as honor. He tells Lucasta will "adore" his "inconstancy." Why? Because his willingness to set aside something as pure and heavenly as her is nothing short of an admirable sacrifice.

    I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
    Loved I not honour more. (11-12)

    The fundamental principle that gives the speaker's love for Lucasta meaning is his love of "honour." What's interesting, though, is that the poem portrays his love for Lucasta as a very pure, "chaste," type of love. That sounds plenty honorable, too.

  • Sacrifice

    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
    To war and arms I fly. (2-4)

    The speaker speaks of his sacrifice of love for battle in the form of these lines; "nunnery" and "fly" rhyme (or at least they did, once upon a time), and the speaker is sacrificing the former (along with its "quiet," peaceful setting) for the latter (the heat of battle, the haste associated with the word "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. (5-8)

    Notice that they key words "chase" and "embrace" can refer to acts of love (chasing a woman, embracing a woman) and acts of war (chasing an enemy, embracing weapons). The speaker is giving up a certain type of chasing and embracing for another very different one. But for him, the emotions surrounding the whole thing are the same.

    I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
    Loved I not honour more. (11-12)

    The speaker's sacrifice is necessary if he is to be taken seriously as a man; if he didn't love "honour more," then he wouldn't be able to love Lucasta, which implies that sacrifice is a necessary part of love, or rather being willing to sacrifice things for your principles is an important part of being able to love.

  • Warfare

    To Lucasta, Going to the Wars (Title)

    We know the speaker is the one going to the wars, but here it could also mean that Lucasta is the one going to the wars! This suggests that even though she will remain at home, in many ways she, too, is suffering from the effects of war because her lover is leaving her.

    To war and arms I fly. (4)

    The action of going to war—to "fly" (which would have been pronounced as "flee")—rhymes here with "nunnery," which suggests some type of strange connection between the chastity and holiness of a nunnery and the act of going to war. It's tough to suss out what that connection might be, but perhaps it has something do with the way in which the speaker views his decision to go to war as something driven by "honour" (12).

    True, a new mistress now I chase,
    The first foe in the field; (5-6)

    The connection between war and love is again suggested in these lines, where the speaker refers to his enemy ("foe") as a potential "mistress." What is interesting is the hint at cheating, in that the speaker is abandoning one mistress for another. This perhaps implies something shady about war, in a poem that wants to justify the decision to fight for honor.

    And with a stronger faith embrace
    A sword, a horse, a shield. (7-8)

    Once again war and love are intimately linked; the fact that the speaker "embraces" the weapons of war reminds us of the loving embrace associated with a romantic relationship. That he "embraces" his weapons, however, with a "stronger faith" is more than a little problematic here. Why is it stronger than the faith with which he embraces his main squeeze? We're betting she's not gonna take this well.