On The Cavalier Poets
by Alan Gould
Their king was devious and brave,
lived out his right to misbehave,
then wore that extra shirt to fox
both January and the axe.
John Suckling writhed in vomit while
one rich allegiance dropped from style
and Lovelace shed his golden suit,
on Farthing Lane died destitute,
both fellows whose idea of fate
was tangled in the locks of state,
where pillows, breasts and dungeon bed
strained Life against the life instead.
The mirror-walls of history
bounce light from their necessity;
their poems come as x-rays of
their epoch’s wild and formal love
for what it could no longer hold,
the blithe escalier of the world
that has one courtier’s fine duress
talk down the common man’s distress.
I know too well the side I’d join.
My teeth clench hard on Cromwell’s coin
to bring the common man full health
and presence in the commonwealth.
But I am moved by what was lived
in values that could not be saved,
their offhand, bitter artifice
that braves the centuries to us,
and must allow each wilful voice
its tightrope walk across despair
from times when daily holiness
went smiling, easy, debonair.