What is your opinion on the gifts that the shepherd offers to his beloved in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In my opinion, many of the gifts the speaker offers his beloved are pretty ridiculous and are gifts that cannot possibly be given by a simple shepherd.

For example, the shepherd can surely not give his love a table made of ivory.  And no one can give food that would be as precious as what the gods eat.  The speaker is clearly being hyperbolic here -- they are things he can never give.

As for the other things, like a bed of roses, I suppose they would be possible.  Those other gifts sound pretty pleasant to me -- very restful.  To sit by a stream while birds sing, that sounds pretty restful and romantic.

iandavidclark3's profile pic

iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Like the other answer to this question says, I believe that the gifts the shepherd offers his love are meant to be hyperbolic representations of his love. In other words, one should not view the gifts mentioned in the poem as literal offerings, but as exaggerated examples of the idyllic and idealized nature of the shepherd's love. Take, for instance, the fifth stanza:

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. (17-20)
Consider the gift mentioned here, the "belt of straw and Ivy buds." Clearly, this belt would be pretty impractical; ivy and straw are not materials destined to last long when worn. Furthermore, clasps made out of coral and amber would not be terribly comfortable. However, the shepherd is not actually imagining that his love will wear this impractical belt. Instead, he's using fanciful and exotic gifts as symbolic images of his idyllic love. As such, the gifts themselves are not terribly important. What's important here is the idealized love symbolized by the gifts. In that case, I definitely think that the gifts are not meant to be taken literally, but instead are meant to be examples of an idealistically romantic love. 

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