The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Questions and Answers
by Christopher Marlowe

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What is the meaning of all the stanzas in the passionate shepherd for his love?

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This sixteenth century poem is a good example of the pastoral genre. In the pastoral genre, poetry or plays are set in an idealized natural world. Although natural, this world has all the ease of paradise and none of the grueling labor of the real rural world.

As we go through a summary of the poem, you will see how closely it fits the pastoral genre.

First, the poem's speaker is a shepherd, a traditional character in a pastoral. He is wooing his beloved with the beauties of living with him in nature. In the first stanza, the shepherd speaks of the groves, valleys, hills, and woods all around him. In the second stanza, he describes sitting on rocks, watching shepherds herd their flocks, watching a river and listening to birds sing. So far, all is beautiful, simple, and idyllic.

In the third, fourth, and fifth stanzas, the shepherd talks about all the lovely items he will create for the beloved out of natural elements: for example, a bed of roses and posies, and a cap of flowers. Making wool clothing will be simple: they will "pull" wool from little lambs.

More extravagantly, the shepherd will make his beloved "Coral clasps and Amber studs." He then states that if the picture of the life of pleasure he is painting moves the beloved, she should come live with him. In the final stanza, he describes the shepherd's swains singing and dancing and repeats that if all of this moves her, she should come live with him.

This a completely idyllic world with no hardship or pain, nothing but ceaseless pleasure in a natural setting.

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moderndaydame | Student

In the poem, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love", the speaker is inviting his love to come live with him and to be his love.  The stanzas are meant to describe the beautiful life they will have if she reciprocates his love.  In the first stanza,

"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",

he expresses just how passionate his love is.  The pleasure they will enjoy is not limited to his hillside, but their pleasure will also extend into the valleys, groves, fields, woods, and steepy mountains. 

In the following stanzas, the speaker lists the ways he will provide and nurture his love.  A common figurative device used in romantic poetry are hyperboles, which are widely exaggerated phrases.  The third and fourth stanzas are excellent examples of this.  By offering her a thousand fragrant posies and gowns made of the finest wool, he is promising her grand gestures to show how powerful his passion for her is.