Pastoral poetry is characterized by its setting and subject. Pastoral poetry is about the "pasture" or rural life in a rural setting. Usually these poems glorify the simple life and work of rural/farm/small town life, and the pleasure that comes from that kind of life. The settings are usually idealized, as is the life-style. In actuality, rural life was demanding--a never-ending list of responsibilities and duties. In this poem by Marlowe, he is idealizing the life of a shepherd. In reality, a shepherd had a very hard life--lonely, frequently out of doors in the elements, working for the owner of the sheep. Marlowe has his speaker try to convince his love to come and join him for what he claims will be a wonderful life in the country.
The poem opens with the promise that the two lovers will "all the pleasures prove," and he goes on to explain the pastoral scene, stating that they will live amongst the"hills and valleys, dales and fields" while they just sit around and listen to the "melodious birds sing madrigals." He promises her a "bed of roses" and "fragrant posies" "a gown of finest wool" and "fine slippers with buckles of the purest gold." The fact is, no shepherd can make grand promises like "buckles of purest gold"; shepherds would be some of the poorest of the workers in countryside. This is where the poem shows its pastoral quality--by glorifying the natural world and suggesting a kind of naive attitude about this life.