The following is by Shakespeare's contemporary, Ben Jonson. (Note the spelling of his name.) It's dated 1609. The title refers to a Latin poem by Horace. It might be translated as "so trim, so simple" or "plain in thy elegance." Often the poem is just known by its first line.
Simplex MunditiisStill to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed:
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
- "Still" here means "always." Like many simple-looking words, it has changed over time and you'll benefit from looking it up in a good dictionary.
- You'll benefit too from any mental images you may have of Elizabethan and Jacobean costume. We've all seen enough movies to imagine the elaborate finery and long dresses of ladies around 1600.
- Anything you may know about the hygienic habits of bygone centuries might also be relevant! Bathing, for instance, was not widely practiced in any rank of society until the 20th century. So that perfume may well have been needed!
- One more bit of background knowledge, although it sounds sensationalist to mention it, is probably relevant too. Venereal disease was widespread in the Elizabethan period (many thought it had been brought back from the New World by the early voyagers).
- What is the effect of Jonson's use of the impersonal construction, "it is to be presumed," instead of something equivalent to "I would imagine"? How does his tone contrast with that of Herrick in "Delight in Disorder"?
- In the second stanza, the words "adulteries" and "art" both need pondering and should be looked up.