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The Passionate Shepherd
To His Love
A Poem by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
A Study Guide
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Type of Work
Setting
Characters
Theme
Publication Information
Meter
Rhyme
Structure
Meter
Rhyme
Structure
Poem Text With Notes
Figures of Speech
Images
Poem's Enduring Appeal
Biography of Marlowe
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Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2006
Revised in 2010.©

Type of Work

.......u0093The Passionate Shepherdu0094 is a pastoral poem. Pastoral poems generally center on the love of a shepherd for a maiden (as in Marloweu0092s poem), on the death of a friend, or on the quiet simplicity of rural life. The writer of a pastoral poem may be an educated city dweller, like Marlowe, who extolls the virtues of a shepherd girl or longs for the peace and quiet of the country. Pastoral is derived from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd.

Setting

.......Chistopher Marlowe sets the poem in early spring in a rural locale (presumably in England) where shepherds tend their flocks. The use of the word madrigals (line 8)u0097referring to poems set to music and sung by two to six voices with a single melody or interweaving melodiesu0097suggests that the time is the sixteenth century, when madrigals were highly popular in England and elsewhere in Europe. However, the poem could be about any shepherd of any age in any country, for such is the universality of its theme. 

Characters

The Passionate Shepherd: He importunes a womanu0097presumably a young and pretty country girlu0097to become his sweetheart and enjoy with him all the pleasures that nature has to offer.
The Shepherdu0092s Love: The young woman who receives the Passionate Shepherdu0092s message.
Swains: Young country fellows whom the Passionate Shepherd promises will dance for his beloved.

Theme

.......The theme of u0093The Passionate Shepherdu0094 is the rapture of springtime love in a simple, rural setting. Implicit in this theme is the motif of carpe diemu0097Latin for u0093seize the day.u0094 Carpe diem urges people to enjoy the moment without worrying about the future. 

Writing and Publication Information

.......Marlowe wrote the poem in 1588 or 1589 while attending Cambridge University at its Corpus Christi College. It first appeared in print in poetry collections published in 1599 and 1600.

Meter

.......The meter is iambic tetrameter, with eight syllables (four iambic feet) per line. (An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.) The following graphic presentation illustrates the meter of the first stanza.

    ........1................2...............3...............4
    Come LIVE..|..with ME..|..and BE..|..my LOVE

    ......1...............2...............3..................4
    And WE..|..will ALL..|..the PLEA..|..sures PROVE

    ........1.................2..................3...................4
    That HILLS..|..and VALL..|..eys, DALE..|..and FIELD

    ......1..................2.................3.................4
    And ALL..|..the CRAG..|..gy MOUNT..|..ains YIELD

Rhyme

.......In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the second, and the third rhymes with the fourth. 

Structure

.......The poem contains seven quatrains (four-line stanzas) for a total of twenty-eight lines. Marlowe structures the poem as follows:

Stanza 1:......The shepherd asks the young lady to "live with me and be my love," noting that they will enjoy all the pleasures of nature.
Stanzas 2-4: The shepherd makes promises that he hopes will persuade the young lady to accept his proposal. 
Stanzas 5-7: After making additional promises, the shepherd twice more asks the lady to "live with me and be my love." 

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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove1
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks.......................
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls 
Melodious birds sing madrigals.2

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,.......................10 
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle3
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.4

A gown made of the finest wool 
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,..........................15 
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds 
With coral5 clasps and amber6 studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move, 
Come live with me and be my Love.....................20 

Thy silver dishes for thy meat 
As precious as the gods do eat, 
Shall on an ivory table be 
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains7 shall dance and sing.........25 
For thy delight each May-morning: 
If these delights thy mind may move, 
Then live with me and be my Love.

Notes

1...prove: test, try out
2...madrigals: poems set to music and sung by two to six voices with 
.....a single melody or interweaving melodies
3...kirtle: dress or skirt
4...myrtle: shrub with evergreen leaves, white or pink flowers, and dark
.....berries. In Greek mythology, a symbol of love.
5...coral: yellowish red; 
6...amber: yellow or brownish yellow
7...swains: country youths.

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Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. 

Alliteration

Line 2: And we will all the pleasures prove
Line 5: There will we sit upon the rocks
Line 6: And see the shepherds feed their flocks
Line 8: Melodious birds sing madrigals.
Hyperbole
Lines 9-10: There will I make . . . / a thousand fragrant posies
Metaphor
Melodious birds sing madrigals
Comparison of birdsong to poems set to music (madrigals)
Images

.......Marlowe mixes images of objects made from nature (beds of roses, a cap of flowers, a belt of straw with ivy buds) with images of man-made objects (gold buckles, silver dishes). His beloved thus will receive the best of both worlds. 

The Poemu0092s Enduring Appeal

.......Over the centuries, Marloweu0092s little poem has enjoyed widespread popularity because it captures the joy of simple, uncomplicated love. The shepherd does not worry whether his status makes him acceptable to the girl; nor does he appear concerned about money or education. The future will take carry of itself. What matters is the moment. So, he says, let us enjoy itu0097sitting on a rock listening to the birds. 
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