Gold malt does not a pilsner make…

“When I lye tangled in her haire,
And fetterd to her eye,
The birds, that wanton in the aire,
Know no such liberty.”

Richard Lovelace was no stranger to paradox. To him, freedom was entanglement; servitude was liberty. In his most famous poem To Althea, from Prison, Lovelace considers himself freer than the birds despite his imprisonment. The source of this freedom? Love and service. And, perhaps, drinking. Although it seems that the stanza about drinking is more of an expression of the freedom of his imagination than about actual wine since he was in prison. Although prison wine is a thing.

He is free because he loves, and is therefore bound to, Althea. Love is both binding and liberating. But it is not only love for his woman that makes him free, but love for his King. When proclaming “the sweetnes, mercy, majesty, and glories of [his] King,” he is freer than the wind. Here, the paradox is greatest. To have a king is to be a “subject,” a title which many philosophers have equated with “slave.” By declaring the authority of his master, he asserts his own freedom. This theme has been explored extensively in Christianity where King or Lord is used metaphorically to refer to God. On first reading, I assumed that the “King” (notice the capital “K”) was God. However, Lovelace was actually in prison for presenting a pro-royalist petition to the House of Commons, so it would make sense from a political protest point of view for King to refer to King Charles. So dutiful service to a master, man or God, may be at the heart of freedom.

Beer of the Week: The Master – Speaking of masters, Asahi’s all-malt pilsner has a very bold name. But can any beer back up such a billing? It starts sweet, light, and creamy on the nose. The taste is a bit creamy with a decent malt profile. The finish has an almost metallic tinge which is not altogether pleasant. It is really a good beer and well may be “The Master” in Japan, but even the can admits that they are but apprentices to “German brewing.”

Reading of the week: To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace – “Stone walls doe not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage;” with these lines, Lovelace flirts with stoicism, accepting that the things of the body are outside of his control and relying only on his own intellect to experience freedom. However, he comes a bit short of stoicism by attributing his freedom to his relationship with Althea and his King.

Question of the week: As long as he loves Althea, he is free. But if she were to die while he remained imprisoned, he would be crushed. So, if she died and he had no way of finding out, he would remain happy and “free.” Is this validation of the claim “ignorance is bliss”? Is freedom simply a delusional state that can only be maintained in the long run by ignorance or outright denial? Or is it proof of the stoic claim that nothing external is the cause of freedom, only the mind of the individual?

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