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The Scrutiny

You may have heard of, experienced, or initiated someone being 'friend zoned', 'dumped', or 'ghosted', and Richard Lovelace proves to be a stone-cold heartbreaker with his poem 'The Scrutiny' (1642). The poem is often analysed for its representation of the cavalier spirit, reflecting the author's aristocratic worldview. Lovelace presents a rather playful and daring stance on love and fidelity, where the speaker challenges his beloved to prove her faithfulness by spending a day with several other men.

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The Scrutiny

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You may have heard of, experienced, or initiated someone being 'friend zoned', 'dumped', or 'ghosted', and Richard Lovelace proves to be a stone-cold heartbreaker with his poem 'The Scrutiny' (1642). The poem is often analysed for its representation of the cavalier spirit, reflecting the author's aristocratic worldview. Lovelace presents a rather playful and daring stance on love and fidelity, where the speaker challenges his beloved to prove her faithfulness by spending a day with several other men.

'The Scrutiny': overview

'The Scrutiny': Summary and Analysis
Publication Date1642
AuthorRichard Lovelace (1617-1657)
Form/styleCavalier poetry
MeterIambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter
Rhyme schemeABABB
Poetic devicesAlliteration, apostrophe, hyperbole, metaphor, simile
Frequently noted imageryBattle, pastoral landscape
ToneDramatic monologue, lighthearted
ThemesDesire, lust, virginity, infidelity
Summary
  • The poem begins with the speaker expressing confidence that his beloved could spend a day with a thousand other men and still remain faithful to him. He presents this as a sort of test, suggesting that if she passes, she will prove herself worthy of his love.
  • The speaker then offers a series of hypothetical situations where his beloved might interact with other men, demonstrating a somewhat cheeky and self-assured attitude towards love and fidelity.
AnalysisLovelace uses metaphor and wit throughout the poem to present this unconventional stance on love. The poem is seen as reflecting the cavalier spirit of the time, offering a different perspective on love that contrasts with the idealised and often unattainable love depicted in Petrarchan poetry.

Richard Lovelace's 'The Scrutiny': context

The poem 'The Scrutiny' is composed by one of the most prominent cavalier poets, Richard Lovelace who was born in England in 1617 and died in 1657.

Cavalier poets are a group of poets that emerged under the reign of King Charles I in the 17th century. They made their support of the King explicit, particularly during the English Civil War (1642-1651). They wrote poetry that brought immense pleasure to the King, and he offered them his patronage in return.

Cavalier poets celebrate life, love, honour, and chivalry in their poems. Their poems radiate a sense of joie de vivre and an appreciation of feminine beauty and camaraderie with fellow men.

Lovelace's 'The Scrutiny' exemplifies this cavalier spirit, showcasing a playful and somewhat provocative approach to love and fidelity, marking a departure from the traditional, often idealized depictions of love seen in Petrarchan poetry.

With the poem's speaker adopting a carpe diem (seize the day) attitude and suggesting to a former lover that he can no longer commit to her, this poem can certainly qualify as cavalier poetry. It expresses an appreciation of feminine beauty, particularly when the speaker compares himself to a mineralist in search of 'treasure.'

The materialistic viewpoint, regular rhythm and rhyme, and elaborate metaphor further emphasise the 'cavalier' nature of this poem.

The Scrutiny, An image of carpe diem in capital letters and gold colour with a white background, StudySmarterFig. 1 - 'The Scrutiny' demonstrates the theme of 'carpe diem' that is typically seen in Cavalier Poetry.

'The Scrutiny': poem

Below is the full poem of Richard Lovelace's 'The Scrutiny'.

I
Why should you sweare I am forsworn,
Since thine I vow’d to be?
Lady it is already Morn,
And ’twas last night I swore to thee
That fond impossibility.
II
Have I not lov’d thee much and long,
A tedious twelve houres space?
I must all other Beauties wrong,
And rob thee of a new imbrace;
Could I still dote upon thy Face.
III
Not, but all joy in thy browne haire,
By others may be found;
But I must search the blank and faire
Like skilfull Minerallist’s that sound
For Treasure in un-plow’d-up ground.
IV
Then, if when I have lov’d my round,
Thou prov’st the pleasant she;
With spoyles of meaner Beauties crown’d,
I laden will returne to thee,
Ev’n sated with Varietie.

'The Scrutiny': summary

In 'The Scrutiny', the speaker responds to an accusation of infidelity from a lover. He goes back on the promise of commitment he made in the throes of passion and suggests that it would be 'wrong' of him not to offer other 'Beauties' his love. He also encourages the lover to find other lovers of her own. He calls himself a 'mineralist' in search of treasure troves of more beauty, and he ends the poem by proclaiming that, after having loved other women, he will return to his lover if he finds her more beautiful.

Pro tip: a brief summary is a good way to begin an essay about a poem. Without going into too much detail, write 4-5 sentences that outline the basic meaning or purpose of the poem. The details and complexities of the poem can be elaborated upon later in your essay.

'The Scrutiny': analysis

At its core, 'The Scrutiny' is an exploration of love, fidelity, and the cavalier attitude towards these themes. The speaker in the poem expresses a confident, even cocky, stance on love, seemingly testing his beloved's loyalty in an unusual way. The poem is noteworthy for its use of metaphor, wit, and cavalier tone, which challenges the traditional Petrarchan ideals of love. Its form, a sequence of rhymed couplets, underscores the cavalier spirit, reflecting the era's preference for elegance and symmetry.

'The Scrutiny': form and structure

'The Scrutiny' is divided up into 4 stanzas with five lines each (cinquains). The steady rhyme and structure of the poem give it a song-like melody that is pleasurable to listen to when read out loud – which it presumably was in the court of King Charles I. This melodic sound is mirrored in the pleasure of the speaker at the thought of taking on different lovers. The speaker delivers the lines as a dramatic monologue with a light-hearted tone.

Pro tip: when elaborating on the form or structure of a poem, think of the following:1. What is the meter and the rhyme scheme of the poem? Is it consistent? If there is a change, is it gradual or sudden? How does this change affect the way the poem reads?

2. Read the poem in its entirety. Do you notice any repetitions? Is a pattern emerging?

3. How does the form affect the reading of the poem? Does it influence the main subject or theme of the poem?

'The Scrutiny': rhyme and meter

The rhyme scheme of the poem is a consistent ABABB. Maintaining this rhyme scheme shows that the speaker remains in total control of his expression, thus mirroring his control of the relationship. The meter of the poem alternates between the iambic tetrameter (four repetitions of the iambic foot) and the iambic trimeter (three repetitions of the iambic foot), which adds to the song-like rhythm.

An iambic foot is a way to measure the lines of poetry. An iamb consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, for example, 'destroy' or 'belong'.

'The Scrutiny': poetic devices

Let us take a look at the poetic devices used in this poem.

Alliteration

In 'The Scrutiny', an instance of alliteration can be found in line 7. The repetitive sound of 't' in 'tedious' and 'twelve' gives an impression of boredom that the speaker presumably feels regarding the lover he addresses.

Alliteration refers to a group of words with the same initial sound at the beginning of the words in quick succession. An example of this is the tongue twister: 'sheep should sleep in a shed'.

Apostrophe

In 'The Scrutiny', the reader is aware that the speaker addresses a lover, but we don't hear the lover's words, and we aren't privy to their thoughts, thus marking the apostrophe in the poem. The absence of their thoughts or feelings indicates how little they matter to the speaker, who is in complete control of the poetic speech and of their relationship.

An instance of apostrophe in poetry is when an absent object or person is addressed in the poem.

Hyperbole

When the speaker in the second stanza declares 'twelve houres' as 'long,' it is clearly a hyperbole, since the lover was not aware that the speaker intends to only have a one-night-stand.

A hyperbole (pronounced hyper-blee) is an exaggeration. For example, when someone says 'this bag weighs a ton,' they imply that the bag is very heavy, and not that it literally weighs a ton.

Metaphor

In the final stanza of the poem, Lovelace compares a relationship to a battleground and sees his relationships with women as conquests. Continuing with this metaphor, the speaker asserts himself as the 'crowned' victor who returns with the 'spoils' of the war.

A metaphor is when an idea, object, or person is substituted for another to indicate similarities between the two.

Simile

In the poem 'The Scrutiny,' the speaker uses a simile to compare himself with a mineralist who is in search of a beautiful 'treasure,' indicating his desire to be with other beautiful women.

A simile is a comparison drawn between two objects, ideas, or persons.

'The Scrutiny': themes

The key themes of the poem are desire and lust, virginity, and infidelity.

Desire, lust, and virginity

The speaker of the poem is driven by lust to reject the lover he addresses and break his commitment towards her. He desires to be with other women and refers to virgins in particular as 'un-plow'd-up ground' that he feels the need to explore.

With these comments and comparisons, he sees women as objects, and he also gives the impression of belonging to a patriarchal society where virginity is deemed as something precious that he feels the need to 'conquer.' It seems that, as he has already slept with the lover he addresses, she has now lost her appeal and, therefore, the speaker begins to look elsewhere to find pleasure and love.

As an exercise, identify words and phrases above that are connected to the theme of desire, lust, and virginity. What do these tell you about the circumstances the poet lived in and the attitude towards women? How does the poet himself perceive women? How does he express desire and lust for them?

Infidelity

Having promised the lover his commitment to her, the speaker goes back on his promise after a night of passion, showing his fickle, lustful attitude towards her. When accused of infidelity, he does not deny the accusation, instead proclaiming that he is a mineralist in search of the treasure of beauty. He states that the lover should not expect him to be loyal to her, and that she ought to seek out other lovers for herself.

The Scrutiny (1642) - Key Takeaways

  • 'The Scrutiny' is a poem written by Richard Lovelace, who belongs to the school of cavalier poets.
  • The poem is about the speaker rejecting his lover from the previous night, as he wishes to take on other lovers.
  • The poem has a lighthearted tone and reads as a dramatic monologue, and consists of 4 cinquains.
  • The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABB and alternates between the iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.
  • The main themes of the poem are desire, lust, virginity, and infidelity.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Scrutiny

The poem is about the speaker breaking the promise of commitment to a lover as he wishes to take on other lovers. Lovelace uses metaphor and wit throughout the poem to present this unconventional stance on love. The poem is seen as reflecting the cavalier spirit of the time, offering a different perspective on love that contrasts with the idealised and often unattainable love depicted in Petrarchan poetry.

The poem 'The Scrutiny' is written by Richard Lovelace.

Since the reader is only privy to the expressions and thoughts of the speaker, 'The Scrutiny' reads like a dramatic monologue.

The speaker of the poem 'The Scrutiny' feels as if he and his promise of commitment to the lover he addresses is being critically examined, and his intentions scrutinised. While the tone of the speaker and his attitude towards the relationship is light hearted and dismissive, the title can be read as ironic, mocking the lover's scrutiny of the relationship that the speaker sees so casually.

Richard Lovelace was a cavalier poet. Cavalier poets celebrate life, love, honour, and chivalry in their poems. Their poems radiate a sense of joie de vivre and an appreciation of beauty (of women) and camaraderie with fellow men.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

When was the poem 'Scrutiny' by Richard Lovelace written?

What kind of a poem is 'Scrutiny'?

Which of the following meter is NOT present in the poem 'Scrutiny'?

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