Study notes on Cavalier Poetry and Cavalier Poets: Herrick, Carew, Lovelace

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The Cavalier Poets

The term "cavalier poets" is used to denote a group of poets closely associated with the court of Charles I. The best representatives are Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, and Richard Lovelace. (Andrew Marvell is sometimes associated with the cavaliers and sometimes with metaphysical poets).

They were also known as "sons of Ben" because they spent a lot of time with Ben Jonson, after whose poetry they modeled their own. Another influence was John Donne, the "father" of metaphysical poetry. The common factors that bind the cavaliers and the metaphysical poets are the following:

- Their use of colloquial, conversational style,

- Cavaliers sometimes strived to imitate highly intellectual metaphysical conceits,

- Departure from Petrarchan influence: the lady is no longer an object of desire to be admired from a far, but an actual collocutor, to whom the poem is addressed as an argument usually trying to induce them to exercise their sexuality ("Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime", see Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress; "").

Although their poetry was not that innovative and original, the cavaliers made one great contribution to the English poetry: they introduced the possibility of writing poems about the minor pleasures and troubles of life. They treated the subject in such a way as to impress us with a sense of ordinary day-to-day living. Cavalier poetry gives off their enjoyment of the casual; their poems seem to be written by the way. They generally avoided the grave subjects of religion. They never dabbled in explorations of the depths and intricacies the human soul. For them life was far too enjoyable to be spending it in a study. The poem writing was no grueling task but a part of everyday living.

They were 'cavaliers' not only...