"Content, to my dearest Lucasia"
By Katherine Philips

  • Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Students and Staff at The University of Virginia, John O'Brien, Sara Brunstetter, Sara Kathleen Doyle
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Sources

London : Printed by J.M. for H. Herringman, 1667This text is based on transcriptions created by the Early English Books Online Texts Creation Partnership, a library-based project directed by the University of Michigan and Oxford University. Their digital text was produced from the 1667 edition, published by Henry Herringman in London in 1667, three years after Philips's death, but with the collaboration of her late husband. We have also consulted The Collected Works of Katherine Philips, edited by Patrick Thomas (Essex: Stump Cross Books, 1990), which takes Philips's manuscript versions of her poems as its copytext. Annotations have been provided by faculty and students at the University of Virginia. For a full description of this object, see its ESTC entry.

Editorial Statements

Research informing these annotations draws on publicly-accessible resources, with links provided where possible. Annotations have also included common knowledge, defined as information that can be found in multiple reliable sources. If you notice an error in these annotations, please contact lic.open.anthology@gmail.com.

Original spelling and capitalization is retained, though the long s has been silently modernized and ligatured forms are not encoded.

Hyphenation has not been retained, except where necessary for the sense of the word.

Page breaks have been retained. Catchwords, signatures, and running headers have not. Where pages break in the middle of a word, the complete word has been indicated prior to the page beginning.

Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section.

Literature in context University of Virginia Department of English P. O. Box 400121 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121 jobrien@virginia.edu lic.open.anthology@gmail.com
22 Content, To my dearest Lucasian001n001 "Lucasia" refers to Ann Owen, Philips's closest friend and the person to whom many of her poems are addressed. The poem is a meditation on what true "contentment" might consist of, and ultimately finds that contentment is best found in the kind of true friendship that "Orinda," Philips's coterie name for herself and "Lucasia" share. Content, the false World's best disguise, The search and faction of the Wise Is so abstrusen002 n002Difficult to understand; obscure, recondite. (Oxford English Dictionary) and hid in night, That, like that Fairy Red-cross Knightn003n003The Red Cross Knight is the protagonist of Book I of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, published in the 1590s. Philips is referring to a passage where the Red Cross Knight mistakes "treacherous falsehood" in the form of a character named Duessa for the "clear Truth" of Fidessa. The Red Cross Knight is a symbol for purity and the Anglican church, and Duessa can be read as a symbol of the false or duplicitous Roman Catholic church., Who treacherous Falshood for clear Truth had got, Men think they have it when they have it not. For Courts Content would gladly own, But she ne'er dwelt about a Throne: 23 And to be flatter'd, rich, and great, Are things which do Mens senses cheat. But grave Experience long since this did see, Ambition and Content would ne'er agree. Some vainer would Content expect From what their bright Out-sides reflect: But sure Content is more Divine Than to be digg'd from Rock or Minen004n004That is, Philips views contentment as being more valuable than any jewel that can be mined from the earth.: And they that know her beauties will confess, She needs no lustre from a glittering dress. In mirth some place her, but she scorns Th'assistance of such crackling thorns, Nor owes her self to such thin sport, That is so sharp and yet so short: And Painters tell us they the same strokes place, To make a laughing and a weeping face. Others there are that place Content In Liberty from Government: But whomsoe're Passions deprave, Though free from shackles, he's a slave. Content and Bondage differ only then, When we are chain'd by Vices, not by Men. Some think the Camp Content does know, And that she sits o'th'Victor's brow: But in his Laureln005n005The foliage of the laurel tree as an emblem of victory or of distinction in poetry, but also military conquest. (Oxford English Dictionary) there is seen Often a Cypress-bown006n006Cypress is a common material for archery bows, but also associated with mourning. between. 24 Nor will Content her self in that place give, Where Noise and Tumult and Destruction live. But yet the most Discreet believe, The Schools this Jewel do receive, And thus far's true without dispute, Knowledge is still the sweetest fruitn007n007Reference to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the book of Genesis. But whilst men seek for Truth they lose their Peace; And who heaps Knowledge, Sorrow doth increasen008n008Philips is quoting the book of Ecclesiastes 1:18. But now some sullen Hermiten009n009A hermit, one who from religious motives has retired into solitary life. (Oxford English Dictionary) smiles, And thinks he all the World beguiles, And that his Cell and Dishn010n010Reference to the frugal nature of the life of a religious hermit who would have a single dish for eating and live in a cell. contain What all mankind wish for in vain. But yet his pleasure's follow'd with a Groan, For man was never born to be alone. Content her self best comprehends Betwixt two souls, and they two friends, Whose either joyes in both are fix'd, And multiply'd by being mix'dn011n011Sharing joy and being in a relationship together: Whose minds and interests are so the same; Their Griefs, when once imparted, lose that name. These far remov'd from all bold noise, And (what is worse) all hollow joyes, Who never had a mean design, Whose flame is serious and divine, And calm, and even, must contented be, For they've both Union and Society. 25 Then, my Lucasia, we who have Whatever Love can give or crave; Who can with pitying scorn survey The Trifles which the most betray; With innocence and perfect friendship fir'd By Vertue joyn'd, and by our Choice retir'd.n012n012Retired in the sense of having retired to the countryside, where Philips and Owen were living, having left London during the Civil War. Whose Mirrours are the crystal Brooks, Or else each others Heart and Looks; Who cannot wish for other things Then Privacy and Friendship brings: Whose thoughts and persons chang'd and mixt are one, Enjoy Content, or else the World hath none.

Footnotes