Thomas Campion: Poems

The Love Poems of Rich, Marvell and Campion: Realism vs. Idealization

Jordan Reid Berkow

Personal Response


December 14, 1998

The Love Poems of Rich, Marvell and Campion: Realism vs. Idealization

Adrienne Rich's "Twenty-One Love Poems," which explore the nature of lesbian love, differ strikingly from classic love poems written by a man to a woman, such as Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" and Thomas Campion's "There Is a Garden in Her Face." Rich's poems focus on the "us" aspect of love, the concept of two strong, yet imperfect women facing all oppositions together, while the love poems written by men are far more reverent, almost worshipful of their subjects. The lesbian poems have a sense of love being "real", a connection based on far more than physical attraction, whereas the men's poems focus on an idealized view of the woman: beautiful, pure, distant. The women in Marvell and Campion's poems are lovely façades, storybook figures without any real depth or imperfections. Perhaps the lesbian love poems could be seen as less eloquent, or less flawlessly romantic, but the romance in them is found in the genuine nature of the love. Rich is doubtlessly writing about experiences she has had, real people she has...

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