Cavalier poets

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Cavalier poets

Cavalier poets: Poets who were associated with the reign of Charles I of England (1625—49) and who wrote graceful, polished, witty, and even brazen lyrics about love, women, and gallantry. The term Cavalier refers to royalists who backed the king against the Roundheads, who supported the Puritan parliamentary opposition, during the English civil war. Most of the Cavalier poets were courtiers who wrote casual, lighthearted verse on everyday matters in colloquial language or occasional verse commemorating particular events.

The Cavalier poets, who wrote during the Caroline Age and were influenced by the polished style of English poet Ben Jonson, are also sometimes called Caroline poets (Caroline is an adjective derived from Carolus, Latin for Charles) or Sons of Ben. Noted Cavalier poets included Thomas Carew, Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, and Robert Herrick, who, though not a courtier, often treated themes of love and gallantry in the Cavalier manner.

EXAMPLE: Suckling’s “Love Turned to Hatred” is an example of Cavalier poetry:

I WILL not love one minute more, I swear,

No, not a minute; not a sigh or tear

Thou get’st from me, or one kind look again,

Though thou shouldst court me to ’t and wouldst begin.

I will not think of thee but as men do

Of debts and sins, and then I’ll curse thee too:

For thy sake woman shall be now to me

Less welcome, than at midnight ghosts shall be:

I’ll hate so perfectly, that it shall be

Treason to love that man that loves a she;

Nay, I will hate the very good, I swear,

That’s in thy sex, because it doth lie there;

Their very virtue, grace, discourse, and wit,

And all for thee; what, wilt thou love me yet?