‘Rose-Cheeked Laura’ by Thomas Campion is a four stanza poem which is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. The entire piece is dedicated to one woman who the speaker refers to as “Rose-Cheeked Laura.” Campion has not chosen to utilize a rhyme scheme in this piece.
Rather than rhyming, the poem is unified by the consistency of its tone. The words chosen by the poet, and the way in which he phrases them, creates a sense of admiration and adoration. Without directly saying the words, a reader can tell the speaker cares for the subject of the poem, Laura.
Summary of Rose-Cheeked Laura
The poem begins with the speaker stating that a woman he is infatuated with, or at least enjoys looking at, “Laura” is “Rose-cheek’d.” It is clear from the opening lines that he knows little about this person. She is “Laura” with the rosy cheeks and nothing more.
In the following lines, as if speaking directly to her, he asks that she come over to him and “Sing thou smoothly…” While it might seem as if he wants her to actually sing him a song, he is actually just looking for an opportunity to stare at her. The speaker is so taken by Laura’s appearance he sees her as if she is music. Her beauty is singing to him.
The next stanza expands on the speaker’s opinion of Laura’s beauty. It is like a harmonious piece of music from which “divine” sounds flow. Only a god could have crafted such a sound, or if one continues through the metaphor, a beauty such as Laura’s.
The second half of the poem discusses love in general. The speaker has experienced moments of discordant music, or arguments and dull conversations. He knows a true love would not be like this. When one is truly in love the participants become “eternal” and “Ever perfect.” This is the type of relationship he sees as being possible with Laura.
Analysis of Rose-Cheeked Laura
Rose-cheek’d Laura, come,
Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty’s
Silent music, either other
In the first stanza of this poem the speaker begins by asking that a woman he cares for, or who he is at least infatuated with, come and sing. The speaker refers to this woman as being “Rose-cheek’d.” This shows an appreciation for her looks, but not much else. The poet could have utilized a deeper term of endearment, but chose not to. Instead, the compliment is entirely surface level. This shows that the speaker’s love for this person exists in the same way, on a surface level.
In the next lines the speaker asks that “Laura” come and “Sing” her beauty to him. He is not asking that she actually sing, but rather grace him with the music of her “beauty.” It is music which is “Silent” as it only involves her passively showing herself to him. It is a sound which “Sweetly” graces those who hear it and he wants to be among those special few again.
Lovely forms do flow
From concent divinely framed;
Heav’n is music, and thy beauty’s
Birth is heavenly.
The silent sounds which are made by Laura are further spoken of in the next quatrain. The speaker is truly enamoured with her appearance and the impact she has on him. He continues his description of Laura’s music. It is spoken of as being made up of “Lovely forms. These “do flow” as she moves through his line of sight from “concent” or harmonies, which have been designed by God. The speaker is using “forms” to refer to both the composition of the music she creates and the shape of her face and body.
He sees her beauty as being so overwhelming that it is like she was “divinely framed” with otherworldly intentions. The speaker is completely taken in by this person. It is unclear at this point whether or not he has even spoken to her. Her looks are enough to inspire him to these verses.
In the next lines he expands his metaphor of her appearance and its relation to song as being heavenly. It is music which could only have come from God. While her current appearance is very important to the speaker, so is her history. Her “Birth” was a moment of divine intervention, the speaker states.
These dull notes we sing
Discords need for helps to grace them;
Only beauty purely loving
Knows no discord,
The second half of the poem changes directions. He has finished speaking directly about Laura and now turns to describe the nature of love. There is no further evidence that the two are in a couple. The relationship he speaks of could be completely metaphorical or even one-sided.
The speaker refers to times in which “we sing” notes that are “dull” rather than beautiful. When one considers the metaphor which has been outlining the poem this is likely a reference to arguments and lack lustre conversations. There is no music in these moments. It is obvious that he would have seen moments of “discord” as it is only through a beauty that knows nothing but love that discord does not exist.
This is how he sees the speaker. She appears to him as the perfect woman for whom it would be impossible to experience discomfort, anger or any kind of negative emotion. The speaker believes she would bring nothing but “pure lov[e]” to a relationship.
It is clear that the speaker’s image of this woman is idealized. This comes from the fact that he is judging her on her looks alone and adding to them his on perception of who he would like her to be.
But still moves delight,
Like clear springs renew’d by flowing,
Ever perfect, ever in them-
In the final section of the poem the speaker continues his thoughts from the third quatrain. He is thinking about the existence of love and when and where it thrives. He speaks of it as being the force which is able to “move delight.” It is all-powerful, but not violent.
Love, to the speaker, is similar to a “clear spring” which renews itself “by flowing.” Love perfects those it touches. The participants in this idealized relationship are “eternal” and “Ever perfect” because of the love they share.