Cherry-Ripe – A period piece – Thomas Campion


There is a garden in her face
Where roses and white lilies blow;
A heavenly paradise is that place,
Wherein all pleasant fruits do grow;
There cherries grow that done 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 rosebuds fill’d with snow;
Yet them no peer nor prince may buy,
Till Cherry-Ripe themselves do cry.

Her eyes like angels watch them still;
Her bows like bended bows do stand,
Threat’ning with piercing frowns to kill
All that approach with eye or hand
These sacred cherries to come nigh,
Till Cherry-Ripe themselves do cry!


I found this poem in ‘The Golden Treasury’ an old anthology. I was actually looking for some garden poetry and this caught my eye. The archaic language and structure is clearly evident of poetry written in the seventeenth century.

According to the Internet and Wikipedia this poem was written by Thomas Campion – Thomas Campion (sometimes Campian) (12 February 1567 – 1 March 1620) was an English composer, poet, and physician. He wrote over a hundred lute songs, masques for dancing, and an authoritative technical treatise on music.

What is Cherry-Ripe – not just a statement on a full red colour – after reading this poem with the repetition of the last line in each stanza perhaps it is more a call –  ‘red and ready’  – and with the implication ready to be tasted.

Poets often link words to form a new joint association – cherry and ripe marry nicely in the mind – you could say a tasteful sensual association.

Cherry-Ripe is perhaps more known today as a Cadburys chocolate bar – at least in Australia.

The poem gives a certain lip-service to the sacred (virgin) lady who cannot be bought or sold.  A lady who is only accessible on maturity and when that lady indicates that she is ready – which is not a certainty. In fact the most beautiful may remain inaccessible as a cry of ‘Cherry-Ripe’ would only detract from that beauty – ‘Cherry-Ripe bars’ sound very nice but they are a bit sickly.

Apart from the obvious love connotation and the ‘wooing a beautiful maiden’ nature of the words it does say something about being patient and waiting for the appropriate time whether or not it eventuates.

Incidentally cherry picking time is November in Australia – the first trays fetch high prices in the markets – but I can wait, I’m not that desperate.

Your word in my ear ...

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