Study Guide

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars Themes

By Richard Lovelace

  • Love

    In the concluding lines of "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" the speaker comes right out and says that he loves Lucasta; the poem is also full of words normally associated with love and affection (adore, embrace, sweet, dear). It is not only love for a woman that is a theme in this poem; love of honor also plays an important part, and appears to supersede love for a woman. What can we say? It's complicated.

    Questions About Love

    1. Do you really think the speaker loves honor more than he loves Lucasta? Why or why not?
    2. Do you think Lucasta loves him back? How can you tell?
    3. What kind of love do the speaker and Lucasta share?

    Chew on This

    "To Lucasta" suggests, at certain moments, that love and war are very similar. In fact, that's kind of the point of the whole shebang.

    The speaker describes a very pure form of love and implies that such a sentiment is meaningless unless we are willing, on occasion, to make sacrifices.

  • Principles

    In his concluding lines the speaker of "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" talks about his love of honor. In fact, it's that very principle that ultimately gives meaning to his love for Lucasta, and his life more generally. While he only mentions honor one time, the preceding lines that justify his actions are all leading up to this big, principled reveal.

    Questions About Principles

    1. How exactly do you think our speaker would define honor? How can you tell?
    2. Do you think the speaker's sense of honor should be important to Lucasta? Why or why not?
    3. Does the speaker seem motivated by any principles other than honor?

    Chew on This

    Honor is only mentioned in the last line of the poem, which suggests that often our principles influence our decisions without our even realizing that they do.

    This speaker's not principled at all. He's just using honor as an excuse.

  • Sacrifice

    "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" is all about sacrifice. After all, the speaker leaves behind the woman he loves in order to go to war and be honorable. He makes a point of describing the extent of his sacrifice: the woman he is leaving behind is nothing short of awesome. We mean, her name is Lucasta, which means "chaste light." But no matter how good she may be, the speaker suggests, going to war is even more important.

    Questions About Sacrifice

    1. Do you think sacrificing his relationship with Lucasta for honor's sake is worth it? What do you think the speaker thinks?
    2. Is Lucasta making any kind of sacrifice here? What might that be?
    3. Why isn't the speaker willing to sacrifice honor for love? Is it really better to sacrifice love for honor? Why?

    Chew on This

    Sacrificing love for honor is better than the alternative.

    No way. Any person worth his salt would sacrifice honor for love, any day.

  • Warfare

    We never see the battlefield in Lovelace's "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars," but we can sense its presence in every stanza. At its heart, this is a poem about the difficult decision to go to war, and the effect that decision has on our loved ones. So while we may not get a battle scene, we're reminded of the battles that go down on the home front.

    Questions About Warfare

    1. What does the speaker associate with war in the poem? Do you think he views war negatively or positively?
    2. How do you think Lucasta sees war? Are there any hints in the poem that can help you answer?
    3. What is it about war that has our speaker so willing to go?

    Chew on This

    "To Lucasta" portrays war in an unconventional way by showing us not the bodies that line the battlefield, but rather the effects it has on our domestic attachments.

    "To Lucasta" doesn't necessarily glorify war, but it suggests that sometimes fighting for what we believe in—even if that means leaving behind people we love—is necessary if we are to stand by our principles.