Thomas Campion’s song “There Is a Garden in Her Face” consists of three stanzas in the same metrical pattern. The poet compliments a lady on her beauty in the most extravagant terms. However, he feels it necessary to warn her suitors, himself included, that the lady will not permit anyone to approach her more closely until she indicates that she is ready for him to do so. At first reading, the poem appears to be no more than another elaborate tribute of the sort that Elizabethan and Jacobean courtiers and courtly poets were expected to produce. However, the lines in which suitors are warned away suggest that the reason the lady is so unapproachable is not that she is innocent or overly virtuous; it is simply that she is holding out for the highest price. Thus, while ostensibly praising the lady, the poet is actually exposing her and, by extension, the society that has produced her.
In the first stanza of the poem, the lady’s face is called a “garden” filled with flowers, specifically, white “Lillies” and red “Roses,” a conventional description of the white skin and pink cheeks found so frequently among English girls. The poet also mentions “pleasant fruits” and specifically “Cherries.” When in the second stanza he goes on to say that the cherries “enclose” two rows of pearls, obviously he is describing the lady’s red lips and her white teeth. The first stanza ended with a caution: “none may buy” those cherries unless...
(The entire section is 410 words.)