The poem uses four short stanzas to take the reader through the elements of a man’s new love. He addresses what he sees as its strength—the woman’s dependability. He can trust her to be exactly who he thinks she is. This is why, he claims, their love is going to continue for three more days and three more. But, as the poem progresses, readers might be surprised by what revelations he shares in ‘The Constant Lover.’
The Constant Lover 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 molt 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.
Explore The Constant Lover
‘The Constant Lover’ by Sir John Suckling describes a three-day-old love affair and the way the speaker is considering its future.
In the first stanza, the speaker notes that he’s been in love for three days. This is something he’s not shy about. Nor does he seem self-conscious about the fact that people do not fall in love in such a short period of time. He addresses it clearly and even notes that he knows it could not last. But, his love is so constant (more so than anyone else in the world) that he thinks it will. At the end of the poem, readers are confronted with new opinions from the speaker that may change their minds about him.
Structure and Form
‘The Constant Lover’ by Sir John Suckling is a five-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. For example, in the first stanza, “together” and “weather” rhyme but “lov’d” and “more” do not.
The lines also make use of what is known as ballad meter. This means that the odd-numbered lines use iambic tetrameter and the even-numbered lines use iambic trimeter. The iambs are sets of two syllables, the first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed. The majority of the lines use this pattern, but it is not completely unified—for example, the second and fourth lines of the last stanza.
Throughout ‘The Constant Lover,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines one and two of the first and second stanzas.
- Syncope: can be seen when a poet replaces a vowel with an apostrophe. This changes the number of syllables in a word. In this case, “lov’d” in stanza one creates an extra syllable, making the line eight syllables long. This means it conforms to iambic tetrameter.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “wide world” in stanza two and “dozen dozen” in stanza four.
- Zoomorphism: occurs when the poet imbues something non-animal with animal features. For example, in the second stanza, the speaker describes time as a bird molting away his wings. This is also an example of a metaphor.
Out upon it, I have lov’d
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.
In the first stanza of ‘The Constant Lover,’ the speaker begins by noting that he’s been in love for three days. It doesn’t sound like very long, but the three days have shown him that he’d certainly like three more to come. And, he thinks they will, “If it prove fair weather.” Using the metaphor here, the speaker suggests that if things continue the way they have, calmly and beautifully, that he’ll hopefully continue to be in love. This puts a lot of the burden on his partner, who is absent from this discussion of their relationship.
Time shall molt away his wings
Ere he shall discover
In such whole wide world again
Such a constant lover.
In the second stanza, the poet uses a metaphor concerning time and a bird. He describes how time will “molt away his wings” if he discovers another lover as “constant” as the speaker’s. Time would stop, lose its wings and its power if another woman as “constant” and dependable as his were to be discovered. This reveals the faith, at this point, that the speaker has in his lover. But, as the first stanza recognized, the constancy of their love affair is up for debate.
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.
In the third stanza, the speaker goes on to say that she was the only one that could’ve made him feel this way. He seems to think, in this stanza at least, that she’s truly one of a kind. But, as the final stanza reveals, is emotions and regard for her are slightly more complicated.
Had it any been but she
And that very face,
There had been at least ere this
A dozen dozen in her place.
The final stanza reveals that the speaker is less interested in the woman than he is in how she looks. Three days is not usually enough time to fall in love with someone. Through these final lines, it becomes clear that he may be more “in lust” or attracted to her than he is in “love” with her. He notes that anyone could’ve been in her place if they’d had her face.
The speaker is a man who is sharing his newfound infatuation. He claims to have fallen in love with a new woman in only three days. This love is one that he believes will continue if she’s continually as constant and beautiful as she is now.
The tone is passionate but at the same time deductive and explanatory. The speaker spends the lines describing his love in a way that may make some question its authenticity, especially at the end of the poem.
The purpose is to define love as the speaker is experiencing it. He wants to share this passion because it’s taken him only in just three days.
The meaning is that, in the speaker’s words, love will remain if one’s partner continues to be as “constant” and beautiful as they are at the beginning of the relationship.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Constant Lover’ by Sir John Suckling should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘For My Lover Returning to His Wife’ by Anne Sexton – compares the relationship the speaker has with her lover and that which he has with his wife.
- ‘The Unfortunate Lover’ by Andrew Marvell – contains a very moving account of the ‘disasters’ which befell a man from before his birth to his death.
- ‘A Trampwoman’s Tragedy’ by Thomas Hardy – a narrative poem that speaks on a number of avoidable deaths brought on by thoughtless teasing.