Richard Lovelace (1649):
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkinde,
That from the Nunnerie
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet minde,
To Warre and Armes I flie.
True; a new Mistresse now I serve,
The first Foe in the Field;
And with a sterner Faith embrace
A Sword, a Horse, a Shield.
Yet this Inconstancy is such,
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee (Deare) so much,
Lov'd I not Honour more.
And C. S. Lewis on this poem, from The Four Loves (1960):
There are women to whom the plea would be meaningless. Honour would be just one of those silly things that Men talk about; a verbal excuse for, therefore an aggravation of, the offence against "love's law" which the poet is about to commit. Lovelace can use it with confidence because his lady is a Cavalier lady who already admits, as he does, the claims of Honour. He does not need to "hate" her, to set his face against her, because he and she acknowledge the same law. They have agreed and understood each other on this matter long before. The task of converting her to a belief in Honour is not now, now, when the decision is upon them to be undertaken. It is this prior agreement which is so necessary when a far greater claim than that of Honour is at stake. It is too late, when the crisis comes, to begin telling a wife or husband or mother or friend, that your love all along had a secret reservation - "under God" or "so far as a higher Love permits". They ought to have been warned; not, to be sure, explicitly, but by the implication of a thousand talks, by the principle revealed in a hundred decisions upon small matters. Indeed, a real disagreement on this issue should make itself felt early enough to prevent a marriage or a Friendship from existing at all. The best love of either sort is not blind. Oliver Elton, speaking of Carlyle and Mill, said that they differed about justice, and that such a difference was naturally fatal "to any friendship worthy of the name". If "All" - quite seriously all - "for love" is implicit in the Beloved's attitude, his or her love is not worth having. It is not related in the right way to Love Himself.
Thomas Traherne (c.1636-1674):
Suppose a curious and fair woman. Some have seen the beauties of Heaven in such a person. It is a vain thing to say they loved too much. I dare say there are ten thousand beauties in that creature which they have not seen: they loved it not too much, but upon false causes. Nor so much upon false ones, as only upon some little ones. They love a creature for sparkling eyes and curled hair, lily breasts and ruddy cheeks which they should love moreover for being God's Image, Queen of the Universe, beloved by Angels, redeemed by Jesus Christ, an heiress of Heaven, and temple of the Holy Ghost: a mine and fountain of all virtues, a treasury of graces, and a child of God. But these excellencies are unknown. They love her perhaps, but do not love God more: nor men as much: nor Heaven and Earth at all. And so, being defective to other things, perish by a seeming excess to that.Centuries of Meditations, 2:68.
We should be all Life and Mettle and Vigour and Love to everything; and that would poise us. I dare confidently say that every person in the whole world ought to be beloved as much as this: And she, if there be any cause of difference, more than she is. But God being beloved infinitely more, will be infinitely more our joy, and our heart will be more with Him, so that no man can be in danger by loving others too much, that loveth God as he ought.
A sonnet from Christina Rossetti's sequence 'Monna Innominata' (1881):
Or puoi la quantitate
Comprender de l'amor che a te mi scalda. - Dante
Non vo' che da tal nodo mi scioglia. - Petrarca
Trust me, I have not earn'd your dear rebuke,
I love, as you would have me, God the most;
Would lose not Him, but you, must one be lost,
Nor with Lot's wife cast back a faithless look
Unready to forego what I forsook;
This say I, having counted up the cost,
This, though I be the feeblest of God's host,
The sorriest sheep Christ shepherds with His crook.
Yet while I love my God the most, I deem
That I can never love you overmuch;
I love Him more, so let me love you too;
Yea, as I apprehend it, love is such
I cannot love you if I love not Him,
I cannot love Him if I love not you.