The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love is, on the surface, a romantic poem told from the perspective of a shepherd calling out to a nymph who he hopes will be enticed to living with him. He sets forth an image of crystilline tranquilty, a paradise frozen in amber where the two will be happy for the rest of the foreseeable future.
The poem’s first lines read “Come live with me and be my love/ and we will all the pleasures prove” (Marlowe lines 1-2). Already there are promises being given to the as of yet unnamed love, only alluded to in the poem’s title. The speaker is already using a rather seductive tone to allure his love, and even though it is unclear as to what kind of life he may lead, he assuredly has much to promise and will bestow lavish gifts to his intended audience. It is then hinted, “That valleys, groves, hills and fields,/Woods or steepy mountain yields.” (Marlowe 3-4) that perhaps we are not involved with a speaker who resides in an urban setting or certainly not a scholar. There is slant rhyme capping the first two lines of this quatrain, an element and tool utilized much more frequently in poetry of the era than today. There is already an established tone of assurance and a gentle introduction on the behalf of Mr. Marlowe.
The second stanza is much more detailed in its intent. The second stanza, beginning with a couplet of “There we will sit upon the rocks,/And see the shepherds feed their flocks,/By shallow rivers to whose falls/Melodious birds sing madrigals” (Marlowe lines 5-8) provides both a lovely image of a couple watching and an understated explaination owing to why the speaker is involving nature in his promises. He is a shepherd, and feels this initial promise of birds singing to the majesty of waterfalls will set a pleasing scene to both the audience and the nymph. Birds, can, of course not sing praises and certainly not to a specific subject. Personifying a bird in this way, however, lends majesty to the overall impression of the scene.
The third stanza begins with “And I will make thee beds of roses” (Marlowe line 9) which interestingly begins to show the shepherd’s promise to cater to the nymph’s most basic of facilities in a romantic and alluring manner. A bed is something we all require, though a bed of roses “with a thousand fragrant posies,” (Marlowe line 10) is certainly something we do not typically return to each night. Further, a bed is something lovers typically share together. It is not explicit but the shepherd is likely trying to evoke pleasant, romantic images of the space they will share as lovers. “A cap...