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Thomas Carew (1595-1640) was an English poet and one of the foremost members of the Cavalier poets, known for his elegant, amorous, and sometimes erotic lyric poems. He served as a courtier in the court of Charles I, reflecting the ethos and tastes of his patron in his works.

Literary Background

Carew wrote during the early Stuart period, an era that saw a continuation of the Renaissance's rich literary output into a more refined courtly milieu. This was a time when the metaphysical poets, with their intricate conceits, coexisted with the Cavalier poets, who were more directly influenced by the ideals of courtliness, chivalry, and loyalty to the monarch.

Early Influences

Carew's poetry exhibits a strong influence from Jonson and Donne, the former for his classical restraint and measured form, the latter for his wit and metaphysical depth. Carew's works also reflect a deep appreciation of classical texts, particularly Ovid, whose themes of love and transformation appear frequently in Carew's poetry.

Poetic Schools or Movements

As a Cavalier poet, Carew's work is characterized by its lyricism, courtly demeanor, and often hedonistic celebration of love and beauty. This group, which included Sir John Suckling and Richard Lovelace, often wrote in a lighter, more elegant style that opposed the denser, more introspective work of the metaphysical poets. Cavalier poets were associated with the court and were often engaged in the political struggles of the time, opposing the Puritanical leanings that would eventually culminate in the English Civil War.

Poetic Oeuvre: Phases and Themes

Carew's poetry covers a variety of themes but is particularly noted for its sensuality and the exploration of erotic and romantic love. His best-known work, "A Rapture," is a fine example of this, blending physical desire with a Platonic quest for transcendental beauty. His poem "To His Mistress Sitting by a River’s Side, An Eddy" exemplifies his skill at capturing a moment's evanescence and infusing it with both charm and philosophical depth.

While much of his poetry is light and amorous, Carew could also write with serious moral purpose. "An Elegy upon the Death of the Dean of Paul's, Dr. John Donne" pays homage to his predecessor, affirming Donne's influence on his work. Carew also ventured into epigrams and occasional poetry, which further showcased his adaptability and command of tone.

Influence

Carew's influence was somewhat limited by the historical circumstances of his time, yet his mastery of form and the polish of his lyrics have earned him a lasting place in the canon of English literature. His works have been revisited for their display of Cavalier ideals and for their role in the evolution of the lyrical poem in English literature.

Honors

While not formally honored during his lifetime in the modern sense, Carew's position at court and his association with prominent figures of the day served as de facto recognition of his talent and contributions to the arts.

Conclusion

Thomas Carew exemplifies the Cavalier poet's ideal, merging wit and eloquence with the refined tastes of the Caroline court. His poetry reflects a balance between sensuous indulgence and intellectual depth, capturing both the transience of life and the eternal pursuit of beauty and love. Carew's work offers insight into the social and literary preoccupations of his time, providing a window into the interplay between politics, personal expression, and artistic creation in the lead-up to one of England's most tumultuous historical periods. His lyrical legacy, while not as widely recognized as some of his contemporaries, remains an important facet of the rich tapestry of English Renaissance poetry.


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