It was only later that the verses gained renown as a standalone poem. The poem begins with the line: "Still to be neat, still to be dressed". The word "still" in Renaissance times had the added significance of "always", which gives the poem a different layer of meaning, the lady is "always" in a state of dishevelment.
The poem goes on to comment on the lady’s appearance, and how she is "Still to be powdered, still perfumed:", but very soon introduces the central theme, that of artifice versus natural beauty. The subject of art is brought up, "art’s hid causes are not found,/All is not sweet, all is not sound", and it is given a negative verdict.
Appearances and artful decorations are found wanting in comparison to the pure simplicity of a woman who is given to "sweet neglect" and lets her personality shine through: "That makes simplicity a grace. Robes loosely flowing, hair as free". Simple beauty is pictured, a woman is thought to be graceful when in natural demeanor.
The poem brings out the contrast between natural beauty and the beauty that is bolstered by external modifications. It is clear that in Benson’s world, natural beauty in a woman finds favor with the male heart, instead of the "adulteries of art". Artificial enhancement of feminine beauty attracts the gaze, arouses desire, but can get no further.
When examining the poem by Herrick, it is impossible to dismiss the notion that he was inspired by Benson’s poem. The theme is similar, and the preoccupations seem to be set around the female form: "A sweet disorder in the dress/ Kindles in clothes a wantonness". A woman’s body appears in the reader’s imagination as the poem is read.
The sexuality of the female form is established through deft phrases that trace the "sweet neglect" extolled in Benson’s poem. Instances like "fine distraction", "erring lace", "neglectful cuff" and the "careless shoe-string" are all part of Herrick’s attempt to capture the concept of a woman’s natural beauty which is infused with "wantonness".