Thomas Carew (1594-1640) had a reputation as a wayward character which lasted for all of his adult life, though it did nothing to damaged his profession as poet, soldier, and courtier. Fired from his first job as secretary to Sir Dudley Carlton in 1616 having made disparaging comments about Carlton and his wife, he was made a gentlemen of Charles I’s Privy Chamber Extraordinary in 1630.
Carew was also branded a ‘libertine’ in his time, not least because of the explicit sexual nature of some of his poetry. ‘The Spring’ details a somewhat confusing situation for the speaker of the poem; whilst nature is brimming with life in the fullness of spring, the speaker’s lover is less than responsive to him: ‘her heart’ he claims, is still in ‘January’.
Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes; and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream:
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
The drowsy cuckoo and the humble-bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring,
In triumph to the world, the youthful spring:
The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile: only my love doth lower,
Nor hath the scalding noon-day sun the power
To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold
Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.
The ox, which lately did for shelter fly
Into the stall, doth now securely lie
In open fields; and love no more is made
By the fire-side, but in the cooler shade
Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep
Under a sycamore, and all things keep
Time with the season: only she doth carry
June in her eyes, in her heart January.
Thomas Carew, 1640