Richard Lovelace 1618-1658

Lucasta (1649)

I could not love thee, dear, so much,

Loved I not honor more.

I first heard this quote when I was in high school. It was introduced to me as a paradigm case example of a "heroic couplet" during English class.  I must have been at a particularly impressionable point in my life, because it struck me, at the time, as the "antidote" for the, as I have been wont to say, "all manner of evil things that have been done in the name of love" - to which I have subsequently added "country and god." I was old enough at the time to have been vaguely familiar with the evils that have been done in the name of love. "I shall not do these evil things", said I whenever the subject came up.  I "knew" what "honor" meant; it meant "doing the right thing"; doing one's duty; being truthful; being respectful; having integrity, compassion, selflessness, etc., and more. While I don't think I carry this concept of honor quite as far as Whorf in Star Trek does, my understanding of this couplet formed the basis of my orientation regarding how to behave vis-a-vis love, (and later loyalty). It wasn't until 45 years later that I actually read the entire poem, To Lucasta, which contains the couplet. Imagine my horror to discover that Lovelace's "honor" meant something like glory on the battlefield - the honor attributed to a returning and triumphant warrior, and not what I originally took it to mean at all. He's leaving her to go off to war. What a let-down. To me, it meant that my love could be greater by virtue of the self-imposed restrictions that drew the line at any kind of selfishness or possessive or other behavior that was less than honorable (as I understood it).  Love without honor, as I understood it, was something less than ideal or perfect love. Possessiveness? - destructive and selfish.  Jealousy? - destructive and again selfish. Neither respects the object of these emotions. Love must be selfless, respectful, non-possessive, without jealousy, honest, and, above all, support one's duty. The couplet had said it so well for me.

 

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2009/11/16 at 12:56 and has been accessed 1013 times at 0 hits per month.