To Althea From Prison.
This excellent sonnet, which possessed a high degree of fame among the old Cavaliers, was written by Colonel Richard Lovelace during his confinement in the Gate-house, Westminster: to which he was committed by the House of Commons, in April 1642, for presenting a petition from the county of Kent, requesting them to restore the king to his rights, and to settle the government. See Wood's Athenæ, vol. ii. p. 228, and Lysons's Environs of London, vol. i. p. 109, where may be seen at large the affecting story of this elegant writer, who, after having been distinguished for every gallant and polite accomplishment, the pattern of his own sex, and the darling of the ladies, died in the lowest wretchedness, obscurity, and want, in 1658.
This song is printed from a scarce volume of his poems, intitled "Lucasta," 1649, 12mo. collated with a copy in the Editor's folio manuscript.
WHEN love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at my grates;
When I lye tangled in her haire,
And fetter'd with her eye,
The birds that wanton in the aire,
Know no such libertye.
When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,[ 1]
Our carelesse heads with roses crown'd,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty griefe in wine we steepe,
When healths and draughts goe free,
Fishes, that tipple in the deepe,
Know no such libertie.
When, linnet-like, confinèd I
With shriller note shall sing
The mercye, sweetness, majestye,
And glories of my king;
When I shall voyce aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Th' enlargèd windes, that curle the flood,
Know so such libertie.
Stone walls doe not a prison make,
Nor iron barres a cage,
Mindes, innocent, and quiet, take
That for an hermitage:
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soule am free,
Angels alone, that soare above,
Enjoy such libertìe.
1. Thames is here used for water in general.