The Passionate Shepherd to His Love: Analysis of a Pastoral Poem by Christopher Marlowe

Updated on October 9, 2018
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis studied for a B. A. (Hons) in English literature after taking early retirement. She was awarded her degree at the age of 67.

'Come live with me and be my love'

The Muse of Poetry (1891), Marlowe Memorial nr Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury, UK
The Muse of Poetry (1891), Marlowe Memorial nr Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury, UK

The Characteristics of a Pastoral Poem

As the name of the genre suggests, a pastoral poem is about pastures ie. the countryside where shepherds tend their sheep on pasture land.

A pastoral poem promotes the characteristics of the countryside over those of the town or city, presenting an idealized image of country life that may have been quite at odds with the reality of a hard life in harsh conditions. Shepherds are presented as living an idyllic and innocent life in a delightful environment. In fact, imminent starvation during harsh winter conditions or when the harvest had failed was a reality of everyday life in past centuries. Nevertheless, the vivid imagery in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love has ensured that it has remained one of the most-loved poems in the English language.

‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’ (1599)

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

Les charmes de la vie champetre (Charms of the country life) 1737, by Francois Boucher (1703-1770)
Les charmes de la vie champetre (Charms of the country life) 1737, by Francois Boucher (1703-1770) | Source

What is a Madrigal?

A madrigal is a song for several unaccompanied voices, or a poem, usually about love, that is suitable for being set to music. At the time that Marlowe wrote The Passionate Shepherd to His Love the popular form of madrigal in England was a polyphonic song in the vernacular language, written for four to six voices.

A Summary of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’

The speaker in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love is urging his beloved, who presumably dwells in an urban environment, to join him in a life in the countryside. He attempts to seduce her by presenting an enticing image of delightful and varied vistas with a background of sweet birdsong. The voice claims that, so many are the flower blooms in the countryside, he will make flower beds of roses, a thousand fragrant posies, a bonnet and petticoat bedecked for the loved one. The beloved one's gown will be made of finest wool spun from lambswool and her slippers will be wool-lined. Also, there is the promise of riches in the form of golden buckles, and adornments made from semi-precious coral and amber. And to add to these physical pleasures there will be dancing and singing on May Day. Who could resist such enticements?

A Swing Version of ‘Come Live With me and be my Love’ in the Film Adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III

Definition of Swain

Swain is an archaic literary term for a young lover or suitor. A wider, older, use is as a word to describe a country youth.

There is quite a long opening sequence before Come Live With Me and Be My Love in this film clip but it's worth the wait to see a modern take on this wonderful Elizabethan poem.

A Portrait, thought to be of Christopher Marlowe, in Corpus Christi College Cambridge

There is actually no evidence that the anonymous sitter is Marlowe, but the clues point in that direction. Marlowe was 21 years old in 1585, when the painting was made. He was also the only 21-year old student
There is actually no evidence that the anonymous sitter is Marlowe, but the clues point in that direction. Marlowe was 21 years old in 1585, when the painting was made. He was also the only 21-year old student | Source

A Brief Biography of Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

  • Christopher Marlowe's adult life is shrouded in mystery. There has been much speculation that he was recruited whilst at Cambridge to act as a government spy. Certainly, he had long unexplained absenses from university and had a life-style that exceeded the means of a student from a fairly lowly background.
  • Born in Canterbury, England to a shoemaker John and his wife Katherine
  • Attended the Kings School in Canterbury ( a house in the school is now named after him)
  • Received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1584
  • 1587 a Master of Arts Degree was conferred on Marlowe on schedule after initial hesitations on the grounds of his religious leanings resulted in the intervention of the Queen's Privy Council
  • Marlowe was a dramatist, poet and translator. He became the pre-eminent Elizabethan tragedian of his day. His work was a great influence on that of his contemporary playwright William Shakespeare
  • 18th May 1593 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Marlowe on the grounds of heresy after his denunciation by a colleague, John Fry
  • 30th May 1593 Marlowe was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer at a house in Deptford

Why Analyse a Poem?

Readers who are not students of literature or themselves poets may feel that it is superfluous to analyse a poem. After all, s/he has either enjoyed or not enjoyed the experience of reading the lines. But many would argue that analysis deepens appreciation of the poem and of the level of skill that is involved in crafting a successful poem. Lines do not spring in a stream of inspired consciousness from the mind of a successful poet. A toolbox of poetic devices is available for the writer, and much drafting and re-drafting has been necessary before a poem is judged ready to face the world. Read on for a selection of some of the poetic devices used in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love -

A Brief Analysis of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’

  • The form of the poem is six four-line stanzas written in an iambic tetrameter rhythm (four feet of two syllables with the stress on the second syllable).
  • The rhyme pattern (allowing for and including consonance at the end of lines 1,2,23,24) is AABB CCDD EEFF GGHH IIJJ KKAA
  • You may feel that tone of the poem is seductive (though Walter Raleigh in his poetic response to it,The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd, chastised Marlowe for what he regarded as naivety and a juvenile tone).
  • The most striking aspect of The Passionate Shepherd to His Love is the imagery. Marlowe evokes in the readers' mind a picture of a delightful and varied landscape, filled with rivers and the song of numerous birds; of thousands of flowers that can be used in a variety of ways to adorn the beloved - a cap, embroidered petticoats, a belt.
  • Note the repetition - the insistent and positive we will, I will, and the repetition of the opening abjuration Come live with me and be my love in line 20 and at the end of the poem in line 24. Also, note there repeated consonance at the end of lines 1 and 2 in lines 23 and 24.
  • Alliteration has been employed throughout the poem - eg. live, love, we will, pleasures prove, seeing the shepherds, pretty lambs we pull, Coral clasps

References

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com Accessed 16th February 2018

Herbert, W.N., 2006. Writing Poetry. In: Anderson, L.ed.2006. Creative Writing, A Workbook with Reading., Abingdon, Oxon., Routledge Part 3.


Questions & Answers

© 2018 GlenR

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)