The poetry of the 16th century and the poetry of the 17th century were mainly lyrical. However, this similarity of expressing personal thoughts and feelings did not prevent major differences between both periods whether in themes or in structure. Poetry in Elizabethan time was based on courtly love conventions which included conceits and complements.Themes such as the unattainability of the lady, sleeplessness, constancy in love, cruelty of the beloved, renunciation of love, fine passion of the lover versus icy emotions of the beloved, praise of the beloved’s beauty and eternalizing her as being subject of the poem; these all are characteristics of courtly love. Nevertheless, those themes were contrasted by cavalier poets in the early 17th century.
Courtly love poets used to vow to be faithful for ever to their sweethearts that is why they always stayed constant in their love, ever if their affection was rejected by the lady.For this reason, they used to stay always on fire because of their burning passions which made them sleepless; whereas the beloved used to remain clam and careless. In contrast, cavalier poets especially Suckling, in his poem “song” mocks and chides those who weep in love with women who reject their love. He advises lovers to leave ladies who do not return the same affection because it is useless i. e. it leads to nothing; it is unmanly and degrading i.
e. shameful because love cannot be taught by tears or by signs. According to cavaliers, it is shameful to beg or cry for love and these attitudes will not move the lady. If she does not have feelings to one, it is impossible to make her do so. [Suckling also finds it strange and surprising that the lover has been faithful for “three whole days together” and maybe so for three more in the poem “out upon it. And his purpose was just paying an exaggerated compliment to the lady. Suckling mocks the trouble and pain courtly love poets show in their sticking to courtly love convention.
In other words, Suckling’s attitude towards love is anti-petrarchan. He dismisses a too coy mistress and seeks enjoyment of sensual pleasure which is classless. Praising the usual British beauty who is fair, chaste and unattainable in courtly love poems in order to eternalize it later on, contrasts being very sensuous in praising the beauty of the lady, who is attainable and not chaste. [Herrick is a cavalier poet who, for his poetic purpose created a member of women with exotic names.In the poem “upon the loss of his mistress”, he went from one woman to another and he loved each for a certain quality.
Removed among a number of ladies, with exotic natures, loving each with a dissolute affection for a specific purpose, usually a physical one. He even used a sensuous style in his poems to express this sensuous subject. The best example for this is the language used in his poems “upon the nipples of Julia’s breast” where he compares the nipples of Julia’s breast to something red or white; and the strongly connotated words in the poem signify the sensuality of the poet.Herrick also acted Columbus when discovering the body of a lady, by crawling to every poet of her body in the poem “the virtue”] (we must provide more details to show sensuality) this theme of sensuality is in counter with courtly love poetry. The early 17th century was characterized by themes that never occurred in the 16th century. Honor is a major theme in cavalier poetry. The duty of standing by the king and fighting for his cause is must clear in Lovelace’s two poems “to Lucasta Going to the War” and “to Althea from Prison”.In the first poem, he addresses to his beloved, since he explains to her the situation that he is forced to go to war because of his duty.
He is a true lover, but he gives priority to honor. In the 2nd title, the speaker is in prison, since he fought for the royal cause, but he admits that he feels more than birds in the sky, fish in the sea and ranging wind. For him, only angels who fly high in the heaven are as free as he is. The possessions and even one’s life of the royal cause.
Carpe Diem is another major theme never found in courtly love poetry, but rather in cavalier. Cavalier poets urge young lovers to “seize the day”, enjoy the present moment because youth and beauty will fade soon and forever. The theme of brevity of life also serves the carpe diem, since the best in life ends “Corinna’s Going a Maying” insists on enjoying youth and love and not to be shy, because all pleasures of life come to an end when death comes. [Cavalier poets did not take life seriously, because this life is too short, so one should enjoy it.As to structure, the form of the 16th century’s poems is different from early 17th century’s poems. Elizabethan’s poems were mainly sonnets which present a situation (in the octave or in the first three quatrains) to find a solution (in the sestet or in the couplet) whereas cavalier poets used only short lyrics composed of stanzas which are simple in verse and style to express their feelings and thoughts.
Although both periods were contrasting in themes and form, poets could express their emotions and opinions according to the events surrounding them.