"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe is an example of what's called a pastoral. This was a genre of poetry quite common in Marlowe's day, one that presented an idealized view of rural life, an idyll normally populated by satyrs, dryads, cavorting nymphs, and other lesser deities of Greek and Roman mythology.
In the first line, the speaker invites his lover to
Come live with me and be my love
He goes on to present the object of his affections with a sumptuous visual feast of natural beauty that he hopes will entice her to come and live with him:
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
The speaker is gently trying to persuade his love; he feels that, if he can present a sufficiently appealing picture of their life together, then she will relent. Perhaps the narrator senses a certain ambivalence on her part. Perhaps the speaker's love finds the whole idea too good to be true. Time for the speaker to turn up the charm and say it with flowers:
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
Not only that, but our speaker will even create a brand new wardrobe for his lady love:
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
It all sounds quite heavenly. But the narrator still feels that he needs to seal the deal:
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.
So there we are. There is an offer of ravishing natural beauty, the most divine new wardrobe imaginable, and the sweet, harmonious tones of shepherds' panpipes as the couple dances delightfully, basking in the warm, radiant glow of Maytime dawn. This is the sublime Arcadian vision set before the speaker's lover. We can almost picture Sir Walter Raleigh
's wry smile as he gets ready to sharpen his quill in response.
Unless we get the lady lover's side of the story, then we will remain uncertain as to what will happen. And it's this uncertainty that makes "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" much more than just a conventional love poem in the pastoral style. It also provides the ideal set up for Raleigh to provide some resolution to the air of uncertainty created by Marlowe. This he does by cheerfully deflating some of the time-worn conventions of the pastoral.
Perhaps Marlowe's luscious Arcadian idyll is all just too good to be true. Certainly the nymph in Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" seems to think so. To come away and live with the speaker doesn't seem like such a tempting offer all of a sudden. Despite Marlowe's best efforts, we are still far from certain as to whether or not his beloved will accept, and Raleigh's riposte more than confirms our initial suspicions. This ravishing nymph doesn't want to spend time with a mortal swain whose looks will one day fade. The unbridgeable gulf between the mortal and the immortal is what keeps the nymph and the shepherd apart, and this is the main thrust of Raleigh's classic rejoinder.