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! Learn about him through two famous poems!

categories

Literary Studies

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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

If you were imprisoned in the Tower of London, how would you spend your time?

Richard Lovelace

Image from ArtUK.org

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

An ardent Royalist, Lovelace lived during the upheaval of the mid-seventeenth century in England 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, during this time, he wrote much of his poetry, of which nearly 200 poems survive today. Lovelace was a true solider-poet of the seventeenth century!

To learn more about Richard Lovelace's life, read Richard Lovelace, from Poeticous. You will need to click the arrow under the title to open the full biography. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • 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?

When you have finished answering the questions, share your responses with your parent or teacher.


As you can see, some of Lovelace's life still remains a mystery. It is not clear 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, although most literary scholars agree that he died sometime in 1657 at the age of 39 in extreme poverty, 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.

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