October 18, 2017
Richard Lovelace, "Stone Walls"On this day in 1642, courtier, soldier, and gentleman-poet, Richard Lovelace presented the Kentish Petition to Parliament -- a Royalist document calling for the restoration of the rights of King Charles I -- and was promptly imprisoned for it. His confinement produced "To Althea, From Prison"; this has become one of the most anthologized of 17th century poems, known especially for the poster-famous lines in the last stanza:
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fetter'd to her eye,
The gods, that wanton in the air,
Know no such liberty.
When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free,
Fishes, that tipple in the deep,
Know no such liberty....
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov'd I not Honour more.
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