Jacobean Poetry and Cavalier Poets: Characteristics, Themes, and Poets

 Cavalier Poets and the features of their poetry. The poets of the middle of the 17th century were divided into two principal groups:-

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Cavalier Poetry

They were the members of the aristocracy. They got their name from the supporters of King Charles-I in the 17th century, who was later executed as a result of civil war.

They were known as Royalists. Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Sir John Suckling and Richard Cove Lace are known as Cavalier poets or Cavalier Lyricists, with the notable exception of Robert Herrick, who was a Clergyman.

The other poets of this group lived at the court of Charles-I. They favoured the king and the court party as against the Puritans and the Parliament but they did not use their poetry, as a means of propaganda against the foes of the king. They kept their royalism away from their poetry.

They were lyrical poets and chiefly dealt with love, beauty, and war. With the exception of Robert Herrick, who wrote both religious and secular poems, the other Cavalier poets dealt only with secular themes.

Influence of Ben Jonson And John Donne

The Cavalier lyricists came under the influence of Ben Jonson and John Donne. Most of them felt proud of calling themselves, “Sons of Ben”. They derived from Ben Jonson, the clarity and lucidity of expression, control of emotions and sophistication of tone.

Under the influence of Donne, they used a conversational tone, metaphysical conceits etc. in their poems. Thus both Ben Jonson and John Donne were their role models.

Main Features of Cavalier Poetry

  •  The Cavalier poets wrote short lyrical poems but did not like sonnets.
  • Cavalier lyricists did not write as professionals for publicity. They wrote carelessly and their poetry was immature.
  • They used direct language in the poetry which expressed a highly individualistic personality. In more detail, the Cavaliers, while writing, accepted the idea of the Renaissance (Read more about Renaissance Poetry).
  • They avoided the subject of religion, apart from making one or two graceful speeches.
  • They avoided discovering the depths of the soul.
  • Cavalier poetry’s main thematic concern is the pleasure. Many poems favour living in moments and are often erotic in nature. Moreover, as Cavalier poets were aristocrats, Cavalier poetry focuses on the cultural life that aristocrats led.
  • The tone of Cavalier poetry is light. It focuses on eroticism and matters of culture. Cavalier poetry is often written from the perspective of a military or aristocratic person, giving it a graceful flair.

Cavalier Poets

Robert Herrick

He was one of the greatest Cavalier lyricists. He was the chief of those who gained inspirations from Ben Jonson & called themselves “the sons of Ben”. His two volumes of poems are “Noble Numbers” & “Hesperides”. Both are collections of short poems. His poems are religious as well as secular.

Thomas Carew

He was a reputed wit of his times. He was known as the courtly & polished love poet. His famous poems are: “Ask Me No More” & “Upon a Ribbon Tied about His Arm”.

Sir John Suckling

He ruined himself in the royalist cause. He was rich, brilliant & witty. His best-known poem is “Why so pale & wah fond lover?

Richard Lovelace

Like Suckling, he was also rich & brilliant & ruined himself in royalist cause. He prepared his volume entitled “Lucasta” in prison.


  • Cavalier poets took a lighter approach towards love than some of their contemporaries.
  • They lived for the moment.
  • The most common format used by Cavalier poets was “Roses are red, violets are blue” in their poems
  • In their poems, they reflected the attitudes of many courtiers, that love need not be more than a little joy.

Metaphysical Poetry

Read about Metaphysical Poetry and Poets