What song is related to "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One modern song that has the carpe diem theme characteristic of Marlowe's ''The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young."

Joel's song possesses an urgency and libidinous nature similar to Marlowe's proposition to his love, as Marlowe asks his love to come live with him and enjoy the carnal pleasures:

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,

In Billy Joel's song, the speaker urges Virginia to partake in carnal pleasures with him. There is also a sense of immediacy in both Joel's and Marlowe's verses. Joel's character tells the young woman Virginia:

So come on Virginia show me a sign
Send up a signal and I'll throw you the line
The stained-glass curtain you're hiding behind....

Marlowe's speaker tells his lady that he will provide great pleasure to her in the time of fertility and love if she will come out from her "curtain" of virginity. His poem is clearly erotic as he promises his lady a bed of roses, with the bed, of course, being a very suggestive item. Similarly, Billy Joel's character suggests the enjoyment that he will create for his love:

I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun.

Indeed, both poem and song are carpe diem verses.

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe is an example of a common type of pastoral Renaissance love poem in which a male speaker tries to seduce a young woman by describing the pleasures that will ensue on her yielding to him. The poem most closely related to this is by Walter Raleigh, and called "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd", which was written as a direct response to it. In this, Raleigh provides counterarguments to the shepherd's blandishments.

Many of the carpe diem songs and poems of the Renaissance also have pastoral settings and emphasize seduction. Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" also constructs a scenario of a male speaker persuading young women to enjoy sensual pleasures, as does Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress". 

Although perhaps better known for his more plaintive or profound songs, Dowland's "Come away, come sweet love" is close in setting and style to Marlowe's poem.

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