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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cherry Ripe

(The Fruit Seller by Vincenzo Campi, 1536-1591,
Italian painter)

In this verse, Thomas Campion’s beloved is not just a red, red rose. The poet sees a full garden in her face, and he creates even more images with the help of other metaphors, mixed though they be.

But this beauty is out of bounds, he tells us, until she herself gives permission. “Cherry ripe” is the cry heard in the London markets and recorded by another English poet of the time, Robert Herrick:

Cherry-ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
Full and fair ones; come and buy.


There is a garden in her face
Where roses and white lilies grow;
A heav’nly paradise is that place
Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.
There cherries grow which none may buy,
Till “Cherry ripe” themselves do cry.

Those cherries fairly do enclose
Of orient pearl a double row,
Which when her lovely laughter shows,
They look like rose-buds fill’d with snow;
Yet them nor peer nor prince can buy,
Till “Cherry ripe” themselves do cry.

Her eyes like angels watch them still,
Her brows like bended bows do stand,
Threat’ning with piercing frowns to kill
All that attempt with eye or hand
Those sacred cherries to come nigh,
Till “Cherry ripe” themselves do cry.

~ Thomas Campion (1567-1620), English poet

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