When a comparison is made between There is a Garden in Her Face by Thomas Campion and Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare, the difference between lustful adoration and true love becomes evident. Both poems involve descriptions of a beloved lady seen through the eyes of the speaker, but the speaker in Campion's poem discusses the woman's beautiful perfections, while the speaker in Shakespeare's poem shows that it is the woman's faults which make her beautiful.
In There is a Garden in Her Face, the subject of the speaker's affection is idolized beyond reality and is placed so high upon a pedestal that she is virtually unattainable. Campion uses metaphors and similes to compare the lady to the splendors of nature. Roses and cherries are repeatedly used to describe various parts of the lady, like her rosy cheeks and luscious lips. Her teeth are said to be made "[o]f orient pearl a double row" (line 8). The white of the pearl, the lilies and the snow build the image of a woman of purity and virtue. This notion of the lady as a divine creature is further emphasized by the many references to heaven. Her face is seen as "[a] heavenly paradise"(3), her eyes are "like angels"(13), and her lips are called "sacred cherries"(17). They are a forbidden fruit, similar to those of the garden of Eden, that no one may touch or even look at "[t]ill 'Cherry ripe!' themselves do cry" (5). The lady is viewed to be unapproachable unless she gives her permission to be approached. She seems cold and unfeeling when her brows are described as "bended bows" (14) ready to kill with "piercing frowns"(15), so it is likely that she does not give her permission easily. This woman cannot possibly be as godlike and perfect as the speaker makes her out to be, which causes this poem to feel strained and false.
Shakespeare realizes the unnatural and exaggerated aspects of such love poems as There is a Garden in Her Face, and wittily writes Sonnet 130 as a look at real love instead of distorted worship. While Campion uses imagery of nature in comparison to the woman in his poem, Shakespeare states all of the differences between nature and the speaker's mistress. His mistress has nothing in common with roses, which are so often used to describe Campion's subject. She does not have white skin or red lips like the ideal woman of Renaissance poetry. Despite this woman's lack of conventional beauty though, it is clear that the speaker loves her with more depth than the speaker in Campion's poem. He is more interested in what is beneath the surface. He says he "love[s] to hear her speak," even though her voice is not like music, because he most likely enjoys the content of her words rather than the actual sound (9-10). The lady of Sonnet 130 is not as far out of reach as the lady of There is a Garden in Her Face. The speaker calls her "[m]y mistress," indicating that she belongs to him (1). The woman in Campion's poem is referred to as nothing more than "her," a far colder and impersonal term. There is no description of the mistress in Shakespeare's sonnet as a heavenly creature. This woman, "when she walks, treads on the ground"(12). She is a regular woman, not as the lady in Campion's poem appears to be. She has her faults such as her wiry hair (4) and her reeking breath (8), but these faults only show the reader the strength of the speaker's love. If he is able to love his mistress, knowing her many imperfections, then his love must be powerful and profound. He needs no outer signs of beauty to justify his love for her. This mistress is special to the speaker because she is unique, as this poem so cleverly notes. The speaker's love is authentic, and so is his description of the woman he loves.
The theme of true love in Sonnet 130 versus the false idolatry in There is a Garden in Her Face shows the reader that society has a specific idea of beauty which is impossible for any woman or man to match. Campion's poem reflects this impossible ideal that society inflicts on us. This woman in There is a Garden in Her Face could never really live up to the image that the speaker has created of her. The image is false, and so is his love because he is only focusing on her outward appearance. The speaker in Shakespeare's sonnet clearly is not in love with his mistress' looks. Everything about her is contrary to society's standards, but he understands the absurdity of these standards and rejects them. There is more to his mistress than meets the eye, and that is why he truly loves her.
Abrams, M.H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton, 1993.
Campion, Thomas. "There is a Garden in Her Face." Abrams 1044.
Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 130." Abrams 820.