The Poetry of Richard Lovelace

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11657

Prison is not the most romantic place to be locked up (especially the Tower of London), but it proved to be inspirational for Richard Lovelace and his loves! Explore two of his famous poems.


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

person at a desk in the Tower of London

  • How would you spend your time if you were imprisoned in the Tower of London?

During his imprisonment in the Tower of London, Richard Lovelace turned to poetry to pass the time.

An ardent Royalist, Lovelace lived during England's upheaval of the mid-seventeenth century when the monarchy was overthrown during a Civil War. While the monarchy was eventually restored just over a decade after being deposed, Lovelace did not live to see the return of the king to the throne.

As a member of the nobility, Lovelace supported the royals' causes before and during the Civil War, which led to his repeated imprisonment. However, he wrote much of his poetry during this time, of which nearly 200 poems survive today.

Lovelace was a true soldier-poet of the seventeenth century!

As you read to learn more about Richard Lovelace and his life, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. (Click the ∨ to open the full biography.)

  • What is unusual about Lovelace's birth?
  • What happened to Lovelace's father when Richard was nine years old?
  • What subjects influenced much of Lovelace's poetry?
  • What was Lovelace's primary occupation?
  • How many times was Lovelace imprisoned, and what were the reasons for his incarcerations?
  • What is unusual about Lovelace's death?

Richard Lovelace portrait circa 1645

As you can see, some of Lovelace's life remains a mystery. It is unclear how much education Lovelace received, although he is listed on the registers of several schools and did drop out of Cambridge in his late teens.

The exact date of his death is still debated. However, most literary scholars agree that he died in extreme poverty sometime in 1657 at 39, having sold off his inherited property to finance his military expeditions. (Members of the nobility were expected to financially support themselves in the military. There was no government salary for the military in seventeenth-century Britain.)

Although Lovelace spent many of his adult years fighting in support of the British crown, his years in prison gave him time to develop his poetry, which he started writing during his years at Cambridge University.

Lovelace's poetry was written in the popular style of the era, with short stanzas or verses that often had the same or similar number of syllables per line and a rhyme scheme with the last word of each line.

Lovelace often wrote about political events or the events of his life and intertwined them with the theme of love, which was popular in poetry written by members of the British court in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

To see Lovelace's skill in combining his personal life with the popular forms of seventeenth-century British poetry, move on to the Got It? section to read several of Lovelace's poems.

Image - Button Next