The Man of Life Upright by Thomas Campion
“The Man of Life Upright” appears in Thomas Campion’s songbook, A Book of Ayres. This song is about an upright or honest man. Campion describes how such a person leads his life. His attitude towards the transient pleasures of life teaches readers how to become free from worldliness. Besides, the pious side of the person helps to explore the way of spiritual development. Being a Renaissance verse, this piece is written in strict measure of rhyme and meter.
- Read the full text of “The Man of Life Upright” below:
The Man of Life Upright by Thomas Campion The man of life upright, Whose chearfull minde is free From waight of impious deedes, And yoake of vanitee, The man whose silent dayes In harmelesse joyes are spent: Whom hopes cannot delude, Nor sorrowes discontent, That man needes neyther towres, Nor armour for defence: Nor vaults his guilt to shrowd From thunders violence; Hee onely can behold With unaffrighted eyes The horrors of the deepe, And terrors of the Skies. Thus, scorning all the cares That fate or fortune brings, His Booke the Heav'ns hee makes, His wisedome heav'nly things. Good thoughts his surest friends, His wealth a well-spent age, The earth his sober Inne, And quiet pilgrimage.
“The Man of Life Upright” is all about an honest man whose mind is always cheerful. It is free from impiety and vanity. His silent days are spent in joys that do not harm others. The man of life upright never loses hope nor the sorrows can make him discontent. He does not need towers or armor for protection. Not even vaults to shroud his guilt from God’s thunder. With unafraid eyes, he beholds the horrific depths of the sea and the tremulous sky. He scorns comfort. The sky’s the sole book for him and he seeks inspiration from heavenly things. His friends are good thoughts and his wealth is a well-spent life. Additionally, the earth is a sober inn and quiet pilgrimage for an upright man.
Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter
This poem consists of six quatrains. Campion uses the ballad stanza form. Thus, the rhyme scheme of the poem is ABCB. It means the second and fourth lines rhyme together. For example, in the first quatrain, “free” rhymes with “vanitee”. Apart from that, each line contains six syllables. The stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. So, there are a total of three iambs per line. The overall poem is written in iambic trimeter. Let’s have a look at the scansion of the first stanza for understanding the overall meter.
The man/ of life/ vp-right,
Whose chear/-full minde/ is free
From waight/ of imp/-ious deedes,
And yoake/ of va/-ni-tee;
Literary Devices & Figurative Language
In Campion’s “The Man of Life Upright”, the following literary devices can be found.
- Metaphor: Campion uses a number of metaphors in this poem. For example, in the first stanza, “waight of impious deedes” and “yoake of vanitee” contain metaphors. It also occurs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth stanzas. In the last stanza, the poet metaphorically compares “Good thoughts” to true friends and a “well-spent age” to wealth.
- Personification: It occurs in “Whom hopes cannot delude” and “Nor sorrowes discontent”. Here, the inanimate ideas are personified.
- Metonymy: In the third stanza, “towres” and “armour” are metonyms of riches and protection respectively.
- Allusion: “From thunders violence” is an allusion to God’s wrath.
- Repetition: In the first three stanzas, Campion repeats the phrase “The man” at the beginning. In the fifth stanza, there is a repetition of the term “Heau’n” (Heaven).
- Synecdoche: It occurs in the phrase “vnaffrighted eyes”. Here, Campion is referring to the person as a whole.
- Anaphora: It occurs in lines 2-3 of the third stanza and lines 3-4 of the fifth stanza.
Central Idea & Themes
The central idea of “The Man of Life Upright” revolves around the virtue of uprightness. It deals with the mindset of a person who practices honesty, modesty, and spirituality throughout his life. This poem also taps on the themes of courage, truthfulness, and asceticism. Campion describes an ideal life, free from impious deeds and thralldom of vanity. For an honest person, life is a vacation to be well-spent and a spiritual journey for self-fulfillment. If a person is virtuous, he never becomes hopeless about life. He does not even fear or care about fate’s ruling. What God sends, he accepts wholeheartedly.
Stanza-by-Stanza Critical Analysis & Explanation
The man of life vpright,
Whose chearfull minde is free
From waight of impious deedes,
And yoake of vanitee;
The 1613 version of the text “The Life of Man Upright” contains slight variations from the 1601 version. These occur in a few instances and do not change the overall meaning of the song. In this piece, Campion talks about the qualities of an upright person. Each stanza centers on a specific trait of that person. The poet does not explicitly tell readers to be like an upright man. He shows them the way to be one in order to lead a spiritually satisfying life.
The first line of the poem is the title itself. It tells readers about the subject matter. According to the poet, one upright man’s mind is ever cheerful. Nothing can make him unhappy. His mind is free from the weight of impious deeds. Here, the poet metaphorically describes the impact of impious deeds on the soul. It feels like a heavyweight that makes the soul stoop.
In the fourth line, there is another metaphor. Here, vanity is compared to a slaver. Egotism or self-conceit enslaves the mind. One mind cannot be truly free if it is dominated by this misplaced pride in the self.
The man whose silent dayes
In harmelesse ioyes are spent,
Whom hopes cannot delude
Nor sorrowes discontent;
In the second stanza, Campion describes how an upright person lives. Firstly, there is an iota of pomp or boisterous celebration in his life. He lives silently with mental peace. Like a perennial river never ceases, his mental calm flows steadily, yet silently. His are the joys that are not based upon another’s misfortune. Materialistic pleasure somehow pains the have-nots. But, an upright man’s joys originate solely from his spiritual satisfaction.
For having everlasting mental bliss, he never loses hope. According to Campion, an upright man cannot be defrauded by “hopes”. Here, the poet personifies the abstract idea. Likewise, in the following line, he invests “sorrow”, another abstract concept, with the idea of making someone discontent. An upright man never loses hope in sorrowful conditions. He knows, “This too shall pass”.
That man needes neyther towres,
Nor armour for defence:
Nor vaults his guilt to shrowd
From thunders violence;
One who is spiritually content, neither seeks “towers” nor “armour”. Towers provide protection to those who have something to lose. Armour protects one who has enemies in ambush. An upright person has nothing to lose or protect against enemies. Besides, he does not have enemies to protect himself from. That’s why he does not need to worry in life.
In the following lines, the poet talks about the uncorrupted soul of the person. One who is righteous and truthful at heart never needs a shroud to hide his guilt. If there is no stain in his soul, what is the use of a vault or shroud? So, an upright person has nothing to hide in front of God. He neither has to fear “thunders violence”, an allusion to God’s wrath.
God punishes a soul for its impious acts on the judgment’s day. As an upright person is free from the weight of impious deeds and the yoke of vanity, he is unafraid of God. Rather, he loves Him with all his heart and follows his path truthfully.
Hee onely can behold
With vnaffrighted eyes
The horrors of the deepe
And terrors of the Skies.
The fourth stanza of “The Man of Life Upright”, begins with a hyperbolic expression “onely” or “only”. According to the poet, only an upright man is free from apprehension. By using this expression, the poet emphasizes the courage of an honest person. Those who are honest, true, and virtuous, can only visualize the things that sinful human beings cannot notice.
What are these things? Campion provides the answer in the last two lines. According to him, an upright person can behold the “horrors of the deep” and “terrors of the Skies” with unafraid eyes. The term “deep” is a metaphor of either the sea or hell. Whereas, the term “skies” symbolizes God’s wrath or storm. Through these references, the poet tries to depict his indomitable courage in the face of adversities.
Thus, scorning all the cares
That fate or fortune brings,
His Booke the Heau’ns hee makes,
His wisedome heau’nly things;
In the fifth stanza, the poet describes how the person’s fearlessness helps him to achieve a state of calm, peace, and happiness. As the person is unafraid of anything, he does not brood over the ruling of fate or fortune. He is so satisfied with his life that he never seeks the care that fate brings. What will come, either good or bad, he will accept it with all his heart.
Furthermore, the poet talks about where he gets inspiration from. An honest man seeks knowledge from the sky, metaphorically compared to a book. His wisdom centers on heavenly things or matters related to spirituality.
Through these lines, the poet shows the difference between rote learning and self-knowledge. The latter is needed for spiritual development. An upright man knows this art well. Besides, in these lines, readers can find alliteration of the “h” sound.
Good thoughts his surest friends,
His wealth a well-spent age,
The earth his sober Inne
And quiet pilgrimage.
The last stanza, concerning its tone and mood, is the most soothing and peaceful one. It brings satisfaction to readers’ hearts. According to the poetic persona, “A Man of Life Upright” has “surest friends” in the form of his “Good thoughts”. In this world, one’s best friend is the person himself. People will come and go. But, the person living inside never departs or refuses to help.
In the next line, Campion compares “a well-spent age” to one’s wealth. The learning and experience an upright man gets from his well-spent life is the irreducible wealth of his lifetime. It increases if spent and never taken away by thieves.
For him, the earth is a “sober Inne”. Here, the poet compares the impermanence of life to staying in an inn. Besides, his vacation is not filled with worldly intoxication. He remains sober spiritually and physically.
In the last line, the poet compares “earth” to his “quiet pilgrimage”. The terms “quiet” and “pilgrimage” hints at the course of one honest man’s life. His mind is always free from the craze of materialism. For him, life is a long pilgrimage. It demands one’s whole-hearted devotion and selflessness. At the end of the journey, one receives a wealth of knowledge and irrevocable satisfaction.
The poem “The Man of Life Upright” was first published in Thomas Campion’s book of songs, A Booke of Ayres. It was first published in 1601. He composed the music of the songs and part of them are composed by Philip Rosseter. This poem was also included in his Two Bookes of Ayres, published in 1613 with a few variations in the text. Campion was an English composer, poet, and physician. He mainly wrote several lute songs and masques. In the Elizabethan era, he rose to prominence. After his death, his works became unpopular due to the repression of secular music in the commonwealth period. However, this poem does not tap on secular themes. Rather, it describes the importance of honesty, uprightness, and virtuousness in life.
Questions & Answers
Thomas Campion’s “The Man of Life Upright” features a person who is free from both impiety and vanity. One who is cheerful with what he has never feel dissatisfied. An upright man is free from hypocrisy as he is already satisfied with life. He has no stains of impiety or vainglory to hide from others as well as from God.
In this poem, the poet talks about an upright person. He describes his guiltless soul from different perspectives. Firstly, he is mentally free and spiritually happy. On the other hand, he is unafraid of anything. He neither seeks friends or wealth as he has good thoughts as his true companions and his life as a source of wealth. Through this piece, Campion tries to convey the importance of being upright and ethical in life.
Champion’s man is bold and courageous as his soul is guiltless. If one has nothing to be ashamed of, it naturally makes the person powerful. His mind never yields in any situation.
An upright person is one who remains honest throughout his life and strictly adheres to ethical and moral values.
Firstly, an upright man is not enslaved by impiety and vanity. Secondly, his mind is peaceful and happy. Lastly, he is bold and courageous.
Hopes cannot delude an upright man and sorrows cannot make him discontent with life.
The thoughts of an upright man are good and virtuous. They are like his true friends.
What does an upright man not need for himself?
The man does not need towers or armor as his defense. His guiltless soul does not require any protection against criticism or God’s wrath.
He can see the horrors of the deep and the terrors of the skies without any fear.
Similar Poems with Life Lessons
- “Laugh and Be Merry” by John Masefield — This poem is about how to lead life happily, without any regret.
- “The Rock and the Bubble” by Louisa May Alcott — This poem signifies the importance of righteousness, calmness, and courage.
- “The Awakening” by James Weldon Johnson — This piece is about the spiritual awakening of a speaker.
- “The Vagabond” by Robert Louis Stevenson — In this poem, Stevenson presents a speaker willing to lead a life like a vagabond.
- “Stay Calm” by Grenville Kleiser — This poem is about the art of staying calm.
- 1601 Version of “The Man of Life Upright” — Read the 1601 and 1613 versions of the text side by side.
- The Life of Thomas Campion — Learn about the poet’s life.
- About Thomas Campion — Read more about the poet’s life and explore his other works.
- About Renaissance Music — Learn about the features of Renaissance music.