‘Advice to a Girl’ is written by the 17th-century English poet Thomas Campion. This poem is in the form of advice to women about men. Campion suggests women never “love” a man if they cannot bear their “faults.” He gives a detailed commentary on the nature of man. Campion’s background as a composer is reflected in the musicality and lyricism of this piece. His use of language is elegant, simple, and straightforward. You can read the full poem below:
Advice to a Girl by Thomas Campion Never love unless you can Bear with all the faults of man! Men sometimes will jealous be Though but little cause they see, And hang the head as discontent, And speak what straight they will repent. Men, that but one Saint adore, Make a show of love to more; Beauty must be scorned in none, Though but truly served in one: For what is courtship but disguise? True hearts may have dissembling eyes. Men, when their affairs require, Must awhile themselves retire; Sometimes hunt, and sometimes hawk, And not ever sit and talk:— If these and such-like you can bear, Then like, and love, and never fear!
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In ‘Advice to a Girl,’ Thomas Campion straightforwardly advises women on the nature of men.
In this poem, Campion describes that a man can get jealous even without reason. They can get discontented and not talk about their feelings. Sometimes, the poet says they make a show of their love. According to him, courtship is a “disguise.” Sometimes, true hearts might have “dissembling eyes,” referring to the fake expressions. Lovers might disguise their true feelings under a smile. Lastly, the poet describes that men can hunt and hawk, but they cannot sit down and communicate with their partners. So, he warns women that they may think of a relationship with men if they can handle such behaviors.
‘Advice to a Girl’ consists of three stanzas. Each stanza contains three rhyming couplets or a total of six lines. The rhyme scheme of the overall poem is AABBCC. For instance, in the first stanza, the rhyming pairs of words are: “can” and “man;” “be” and “see;” and “discontent” and “repent.” Besides, the poem is composed of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter. The first four lines of each section have three iambs, and the last two lines contain four iambs. There are no metrical variations as such.
Campion makes use of the following literary devices in his poem ‘Advice to a Girl.’
- Alliteration: The poet uses alliteration in the following phrases, “hang the head,” “speak what straight,” “like, and love,” etc.
- Anaphora: The poet begins the fifth and sixth lines of the first stanza with “And.” It is meant for the sake of emphasis.
- Rhetorical Question: It occurs in the line, “For what is courtship but disguise?”
- Irony: In the lines, “Men sometimes will jealous be/ Though but little cause they see,” Campion criticizes men for losing their temper over trivial matters.
- Personification: In the second stanza, the poet personifies “love” as a “Saint.”
Never love unless you can
Bear with all the faults of man!
Men sometimes will jealous be
Though but little cause they see,
And hang the head as discontent,
And speak what straight they will repent.
The tone of the poem, ‘Advice to a Girl,’ in the beginning, is instructional. Campion advises young women that they should not fall in love with a man lest they can put up with their faults. He elaborates on the nature of men in the rest of the poem. According to him, men sometimes get jealous about something without much reason. He also notes how they would hang their heads in discontent. Without mincing their words, they speak straight, and later they would repent their remarks. In this way, Campion gives a rough overview of how men lack reason and the right temperament. Therefore, girls have to be wise before loving men.
Men, that but one Saint adore,
Make a show of love to more;
Beauty must be scorned in none,
Though but truly served in one:
For what is courtship but disguise?
True hearts may have dissembling eyes.
In the second stanza, Campion states how most men are affectionate and crave love. They often make a show love in front of everyone. In the next line, he says that others’ beauty is belittled or scorned when one is in love with someone. A lover is often under the impression that pure beauty can exist only in the person he loves.
Lastly, the poet says that courtship is nothing but a disguise, a mask to hide one’s true emotions from others. He remarks, “True hearts may have dissembling eyes.” It means that no love is inherently pure. Lovers say so as they see love through veiled eyes without heeding to reality. So, this stanza is more about love and relationships rather than about the faults in men.
Men, when their affairs require,
Must awhile themselves retire;
Sometimes hunt, and sometimes hawk,
And not ever sit and talk:—
If these and such-like you can bear,
Then like, and love, and never fear!
In the last stanza of ‘Advice to a Girl,’ the speaker describes how men will require their space when their “affairs” require. They often seek leisure and retire in their manly activities. Then they would go out hunting or hawking. Though they have time for such activities, they never have time just to sit down and talk with their loved ones.
In the end, the speaker warns women that if this is something that the girls can deal with, only then should they fall in love with men. Overall, the poet’s tone is instructive, guiding young women to act wisely in matters of love.
Throughout the poem, Campion describes the nature of men. The speaker seems to be self-aware. He narrates how men can be jealous without reason and pass foolish remarks. Yet, as Campion points out, most men like to show their affection and love boldly and openly. This poem also taps on the theme of courtship. It is described as a “disguise” to fake one’s true intentions. The speaker points out that lovers just see through veiled eyes and have not woken up to reality yet. In the end, the poet paints the flaws of men out as if they are unchangeable. Therefore, he advises young girls only to love them if they can bear the rash behaviors of men.
Thomas Campion was an English poet, musician, and physician. He wrote over a hundred lute songs and masques for dancing. Campion is best-known for his songbook, A Booke of Ayres, published in 1601. His works gained him a considerable reputation in his time. However, his works lost importance in the years following his death. His poem ‘Advice to a Girl’ is written in the context of 17th-century England, especially for the courtly ladies who could choose their life partners. This poem contains a piece of advice for the ladies regarding the nature of men, their rashness, and follies.
Thomas Campion’s ‘Advice to a Girl’ is written in the form of advice to young girls about the nature of men. The speaker asks them to love only if they are ready to accept the flaws of their would-be partners.
This poem is written using rhyming couplets. The overall rhyme scheme of the poem is AABBCC. It consists of a total of three stanzas with six lines each. Besides, it is composed of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
The tone of the poem is instructive and ironic. In this poem, a speaker points out the flaws in men. He warns women to think about their nature before starting a relationship.
The main theme of the poem is the nature of men. It also taps on some other themes such as love, relationships, and courtship.
By the above lines, the poet means that courtship is a “disguise” to hide one’s true intentions. Publically, they pretend to be happy even if they are sad at heart. The poet further says that those who are regarded as true lovers might have veils over their eyes that hide their real feelings for each other.
Here is a list of a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Thomas Campion’s poem ‘Advice to a Girl.’ You can read about other Thomas Campion poems as well.
- ‘The Sorrow of True Love’ By Edward Thomas — This poem is about the deeper unhappiness of a person who never had true love.
- ‘Love’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge — This poem details the physical and emotional relationship between a speaker and his lover.
- ‘Friendly advice to a lot of young men’ by Charles Bukowski — This poem is a piece of advice to men regarding what they should and should not do in life.
You can also explore these thought-provoking poems about love.