CAVALIER POETS



Influenced greatly by Ben Jonson, the Cavalier poets were debonair, dashing Caroline courtiers who dubbed themselves the "Tribe of Ben" or the "Sons of Ben."

Chief Characteristics:

Cultivated but colloquial language. They sought the ease of expression of the educated nobility.

 

Artificiality. Love is a gentleman's game--no deep and terrifying emotions stir the Cavaliers to lose their hearts or their poise as gentlemen. Refinement and elegant symmetry of form substitute for feeling.

 

Latin models and classical imagery. But the lighter Latin poets (Catullus, Horace, Ovid; not Virgil), whose works exhibit ease and grace, perfect clarity and fluency of thought and expression.

 

Strong sensuous and worldly quality. The Cavaliers are pagan sophisticates. They foreshadow the amorality of the Restoration (which itself was a reaction to the Puritans' strictness).

 

Anti-Puritan.  The Cavaliers exaggerated their characteristics in defiance of the somber, pious Puritans, working against a fixed morality and strong masculinity. They were loyalist (pro-royalty).

 

Representative Content/Ideas

$        Hedonism (live for pleasure)

$        Seduction themes

$        Carpe diem (seize the moment)

$        Pagan Allusions And Raptures

$        Wistful sorrow

$        Beauty of the English landscape

$        Celebration of the simple pleasures and pains of everyday life

$        Cavalier Trinity:  Love,  Beauty,  Honor

 

Poets: Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Sir John Suckling, and Richard Lovelace.