What is "Song" about?
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Obviously, this poem is to be compared with the companion poems of Marlowe and Ralegh. Marlowe was, of course, followed by Ralegh and, a few centuries later, by Lewis. Lewis’s poem parodies Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd.” It reflects the conditions of contemporary life, complete with poverty and pollution, thus being like Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply”. The speaker—a man—invites the listener—a woman—to share the pleasures that “chance employment” might provide. The life that he offers is meager and uncertain, full of care, pain, toil, and hunger. Lewis’s diction underscores the ironic uncertainty of modern life. Phrases like “dainties on the docks” and “a wreath of wrinkles” undercut the pastoral, Arcadian assumptions of Marlowe’s poem. Instead of “having” summer frocks or “hearing” madrigals, as in Marlowe, Lewis’s speaker offers only the chance to “read” about dresses and the “hope” to hear songs. The “chance employment” suggests the difficulty of modern persons who depend on wages that may be lost in times of fiscal uncertainty.
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