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Honor Above Love
What is honor? Is honor merely a heroic deed? Or, perhaps, is it the way people are perceived? What must someone give up or maintain to receive honor? Is it something a person just obtains, or can it be given as well? These are just some of the questions that come to mind as one reads Richard Lovelace's poem "To Lucasta, Going to War". Through this poem, he portrays a personal story of a man longing for his lover to understand and accept his desire to go to war. The author, being a man of honor himself, writes a close-minded poem about what it means to put honor above everything else- even if it means sacrificing the things one holds most dear.
To understand Lovelace's poem and the foundation for his writing, the reader should first understand what honor means. Honor can be strictly defined as honesty, integrity of an opinion or belief, and fairness. Though a person can receive honor through heroic deeds, it is not limited to an outstanding act of bravery or risk. People can be considered honorable by the way they live their lives on a regular basis. For example, a student that dedicates his time to studying and completing his assigned work by his own hard work instead of copying other student's answers could easily be considered an honorable person.
As Richard Lovelace writes in this poem, he uses many allusions and metaphors to create a close-minded, yet almost disguised, opinion of what honor means to the man in the story. To the main character, there is nothing he loves more. Because of this, he is willing to sacrifice and put aside all other things that mean anything to him in order to receive that which he loves the most: honor. However, the man is not writing in a demeaning, condescending way to his lover. He is simply trying to prove to her how much going to war and gaining that honor means to him. Lovelace uses words as allusions to exemplify the passion he has about pursuing that honor. For instance, he tells Lucasta "True, a new mistress now I chase" (5). Referring to war and the first enemy that he sees, Lovelace snatches the attention of the reader and draws that connection and comparison between the love he has for Lucasta as well as his love for honor.
Another comparison of the love for Lucasta and the love for honor is seen in his direct address and description of Lucasta. It seems as Lovelace says, "Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind / That from thy nunnery / Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind" (1-3), that the man, in fact, honors Lucasta as well. He sees her in a pure and immaculate light, in which he upholds respect for. This further exposes the man's desire and love for something honorable.
At the end of the poem, one reads a stanza relating to the shared love of honor between Lucasta and the man: "Yet this inconstancy is such, / as thou too shalt adore/ I could not love thee, Dear, so much / Loved I not Honour more" (9-10). It seems to me, here, as though the author was trying to be understanding of Lucasta's possible tension toward the thought of him leaving. He relates to what she could easily be feeling when he says "inconstancy". The way he uses this word here relates to the fickleness and infidelity of the love affair between Lucasta and honor. Though, as Lovelace continues in this stanza, one gets the idea that Lucasta, in fact, adores the thought of an honorable man. Perhaps because Lucasta was an honorable woman, just as he was an honorable man, she felt just as strongly about honor as he did. Though she was likely to feel heart ache over her lover leaving for war, maybe Lucasta found the strength to support something in which they both believed in. An online article by ABD further explains this stanza of Lovelace's poem:
Mature lovers, Lovelace reminds us, recognize that there are more important things in life than love. They live by them and ask the same of their beloved. Subordinating love to these ideals does not diminish it, however. Infused by their light, it only shines more brightly.
The theme of what honor truly is and what it means to put it above everything else is displayed in "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars". Richard Lovelace portrayed a beautiful story of a couple dealing with justifiable conflict, and the choices one makes in order to obtain that honor. Although it can be hard to imagine personally, Lovelace does an amazing job relaying the emotion and reasoning behind believing in something so strongly that a person is willing to sacrifice even the most important things in their life. To put honor above all else- Lovelace's theme will forever be a reminder about sacrifice and faith.
ABD. "Ten Poems: Lovelace's 'To Lucasta'". Other Matters: Contemporary Muslim Reflections On the Breadth of Life. 2006. ABD. 3 Feb. 2010. http://othermatters.org/2006/09/28/ten- poems-lovelaces-to-lucasta/
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 6th compact ed. New York: Longman, 2010. 108-112. Print.
Lovelace, Richard. "To Lucasta." Kennedy and Gioia 443.
Nassaar, Christopher S. "Lovelace's TO LUCASTA, GOING TO THE WARS." Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 Jan. 2010.
Pursglove, Glyn. "LOVELACE, Richard." Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 Jan. 2010.