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Sir John Suckling

Updated December 4, 2019

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Sir John Suckling essay

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Sir John Suckling Sir John Suckling was an English, Cavalier poet who was born in Twickenham, Middlesex, on February 10, 1609. His mother died in 1613, when he was four years of age. His father, descendant of a prominent Norfolk family, was appointed Comptroller of James I’s household in 1622. Suckling matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1623, but left without taking a degree in 1626. Suckling inherited extensive estates after his father’s death in 1627. At the age of eighteen, he pursued a military and ambassadorial career in the Low Countries, and was knighted as a result in 1630.

He returned to the English court in 1632 where through his wealth and charm he was known as an “elegant and popular gallant and gamester, credited with having invented the game of cribbage.” (MacLean 252) In 1637 Suckling wrote the prose work Account of Religion by Reason. His play, Aglaura, was published in 1638 and performed twice for Charles I. The play had two different endings, one tragic and one happy. Critics did not favor it, but it introduced some wonderful lyrics, such as “Why so pale and wan, fond lover?” (Crofts 51) That same year, Suckling’s comedy The Goblins was published. “It was much influenced by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and it is generally thought to be Suckling’s best.” (Andromeda Interactive Ltd.) In 1639, Suckling recruited and equipped cavalry to help the King in Scotland.

“He was ridiculed by London wits for the troops’ elaborate uniforms (scarlet coats and plumed hats) but was well-esteemed by the King.” (Andromeda Interactive Ltd.) In 1640, Suckling sat in Parliament for Bramber and took part in an unsuccessful action against the Scots. Suckling was involved in a royalist plan in 1641 to make use of the army on behalf of Charles I. When Parliament ordered him to account for the movements he made, Suckling fled through Dieppe to Paris. A few months later, he is said to have committed suicide by taking poison.

Most of Suckling’s work first appeared in Fragmenta Aurea of 1646. As Thomas Crofts writes: “Suckling’s verse, of course, smacks of the court: it is witty, decorous, sometimes naughty; all requisites for the courtier poet. But these qualities alone would not have sufficed to “perpetuate his memory.” It should be remembered that the court swarmed with now-forgotten versifiers. Suckling has his own voice, a deft conversational ease mixed at times with a certain hauteur or swagger, which qualities were not incompatible with his high birth and military occupation… Though his oeuvre is comparatively small, Suckling is an exemplary lyric poet, as well as one of the most vivid personalities of his age.” (Crofts 51) As was mentioned in many of the biographies that were written about him, Suckling was an exemplary writer and poet.

The two pieces of his work that I want to focus on in this paper are Sonnet I and Sonnet II. My purpose is to analyze the piece and explain how it relates to events in his life, or just how it relates to his personality and the type of person that he is. Sonnet I is a piece that focuses on Suckling himself, like most of his work does. It is about Suckling and the fact that he is no longer drawn to a certain woman the way he used to be drawn to her. There was a time, though, where he was infatuated with her. In this piece, he ponders the stages of life, mainly the sexual stages of human life.

Sonnet I 1 ” Dost see how unregarded now 2 That piece of beauty passes? 3 There was a time when I did vow 4 To that alone; 5 But mark the fate of faces; 6 The red and white works now no more on me, 7 Than if it could not charm, or I not see. 8 And yet the face continues good, 9 And I still have desires, 10 Am still the selfsame flesh and blood, 11 As apt to melt, 12 And suffer from those fires; 13 Oh, some kind of power unriddle where it lies, 14 Whether my heart be faulty, or her eyes. 15 She every day her man does kill, 16 And I as often die; 17 Neither her power, then, nor my will 18 Can question’d be, 19 What is the mystery? 20 Sure beauty’s empires, like to greater states, 21 Have certain periods set, and hidden fates.” (Crofts 52-53) Lines 1 and 2 of the piece pose a question to someone. It could be to any reader, or to a certain person, I’m not exactly sure.

The question being asked is if the reader notices that Suckling is disregarding the “piece of beauty” (or woman)? When he puts the word “now” in line 1, he is helping us understand that he hasn’t always disregarded the woman, this is a new thing. Lines 3 through 7 explain that there was a time when Suckling vowed himself to the woman and was in love with her, but as he says in “the fate of faces,” beauty in a sense fades and is not the most important thing anymore. A relationship is not a strong relationship if it relies solely on beauty to keep it alive. The “red and white” that he talks about refers to what once was thought to be a “perfect” complexion. We could think of this as a form of makeup that is put on the face in order to enhance beauty. The makeup does not work for him anymore, and her and her beauty aren’t of such importance to him anymore.

Lines 8 through 12 talk about the fact that Suckling still has desires and is still the same person, that is apt to melt from the desires he has for her. The desires he has, though, are not as often and not as strong as they used to be. All humans have desires, it is a natural thing. Lines 13 and 14 make known the fact that Suckling is confused by his weakening desires for the woman.

He is not sure if his heart is working right. He has no explanation for how he is feeling. Lines 15 through 19 talk ab …

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