1 June 2024 Susannah

Sir John Suckling & The Constant Lover

The Constant Lover by Sir John Suckling

Sir John Suckling (1609 – 1641) was an English poet and dramatist who adored playing cards and is said to have invented the game of cribbage. A prominent figure in the court of Charles I, he was known for his extravagant lifestyle and participation in courtly sports and games. He was considered to be the best at bowling, a popular pastime among the English aristocracy in the 17th century. He served as a soldier, probably trained as a lawyer, and was briefly an MP. He was witty, often involved in scandal (he seems to have sent packs of marked cards all over the country and then travelled around playing with them, and winning!), and eventually had to flee from England and died in France. A collection of his poems was first published in 1646 and it contained this poem.

The Constant Lover by Sir John Suckling

Out upon it, I have lov’d
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.

Time shall moult away his wings
Ere he shall discover
In such whole wide world again
Such a constant lover.

But the spite on’t is, no praise
Is due at all to me:
Love with me had made no stays
Had it any been but she.

Had it any been but she
And that very face,
There had been at least ere this
A dozen dozen in her place.

This is a light hearted poem which humorously tackles the subject of constant love. The narrator boasts of his ‘constant’ love which has lasted three days, and promises yet three more days of commitment, should the weather prove to be favourable. The speaker is certain that no other lover has ever been so constant, but it’s clear that, had the object of his or her affection not had such a beautiful face, then the he could easily have fallen for countless others. It’s very clear that this lover is unfaithful and hiding behind a veneer of constancy. The poet is poking fun at love.

Love in the 17th century was often regarded as a fickle and very fleeting emotion. Suckling was an aristocrat and part of the world of courtly love and intrigue.

Listen to a reading by Tom O’Bedlam:

Have you enjoyed this poem? I’d love to know what you think, let me know by leaving a comment.

Selected links for relevant websites, books, movies, videos, and more. Some of these links lead to protected content on this website, learn more about that here.

I provide these links for convenience only and do not endorse or assume liability for the content or quality of these third-party sites. I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links may be affiliate links. If you buy a product by clicking on one of these links I may receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.

Leave a comment.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.
Featured image- Lovers in a landscape by Pieter Jan van Reysschoot (1702 – 1772) Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22008493; & Sir John Suckling by Anthony van Dyck, cropped, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23280213
Body image: Fragmenta Aurea by Sir John Suckling, https://www.liberantiquus.com/pages/books/3133/sir-john-suckling/fragmenta-aurea-a-collection-of-all-the-incomparable-peeces-written-by-sir-john-suckling-and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *