The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

It is important to remember that Campion thought of “There Is a Garden in Her Face” as a composite work, which like his other songs aimed at a fusion of poetry and music. Campion’s words had been circulating for at least a decade before the fourth volume of “Ayres” appeared in 1617; they had even been set to music and published by others. However, because Campion thought of each of his songs as an integrated whole, he waited to publish “There Is a Garden in Her Face” until he had composed his own musical setting for it. Any analysis of the song, therefore, must take into account both Campion’s words and his music.

The poem has a simple, regular structure. It is made up of three six-line tetrameter stanzas, each of which begins with four lines that rhyme alternatively and concludes with a couplet. The first lines of these couplets differ from each other in fairly significant ways, but the second line, with which each stanza ends, is in every case the same.

In the music that he composed for his poem, Campion pointed out the importance of the couplet by inserting a double bar before it, indicating that it is a refrain. However, the first line of the refrain, which varies from stanza to stanza, proceeds at a very slow pace. By contrast, the metrical pattern breaks up in the second line, proceeding in irregular snatches. Moreover, the line “Till Cherry ripe themselves doe cry” is expanded considerably, now becoming, “Till...

(The entire section is 555 words.)