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The Cavaliers
The two major sides in the religious struggle that divided England in the seventeenth century differed markedly in their life-styles. The sombre Puritans came to be known as Roundheads because they habitually wore their hair short. The Anglicans of the established church, supporters of the Stuart kings, were more dashing and brightly attired and were known as Cavaliers (because of their resemblance to the courtiers of the King’s cavalry). The Cavalier Poets flourished during the reign of Charles I (1625 – 1649). Ben Jonson was an earlier poet, of course, and not of their group, but his poetry inspired both their admiration and their imitation. Prominent among them were Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, and George Wither. Their poetry tended to follow classical models of elegance, and was written in support of wine, women, and the carefree life. If metaphysical poetry emphasised intellect and wit, Cavalier poetry stressed grace and charm.

Contributed by Gifford, Katya
1 June 2002


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