What specific gifts does the speaker promise to give to his beloved? Do you think that these promises are realistic? Explain your reasoning.  

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker promises his beloved lots of pleasure, especially pleasure that has to do with being out in nature. He will show her all these beautiful, pastoral sights and sounds.

Moreover, the speaker promises his lover "beds of Roses / . . . / A cap of flowers, and a kirtle / Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle." Thus, he promises to take all the beautiful flowers of the spring and make her a bed, a bonnet, and a gown or petticoat. This promise also sounds somewhat sexual in nature; if the lover is lying on a bed of roses, then she is very likely lying on the ground—and we know the shepherd is "passionate."

He also promises her a "gown made of the finest wool" that they will harvest from their little lambs and even lined slippers to help keep the cold out, though they will have gold buckles, too, to be pretty, I suppose. He further promises a belt made of straw and ivy with clasps made of coral and amber. This doesn't sound like a very sturdy belt.

He says, over and over in a refrain, "Then live with me, and be my love." It is unclear whether he is offering her marriage or simply an affair. We know that he feels passionately about her from the title, and he makes lots of promises, but his ultimate intentions are somewhat vague. Because, however, most of the things he offers her will not stand up over time (they are all made from natural things that die or wither or break down), it stands to reason that his feelings will do likewise.

lit24 | Student

Christopher Marlowe's (1564-1593)  pastoral love lyric "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" is believed to have been written in 1588 when he was a student at Cambridge. It was published posthumously in 1599.

The poem is the  appeal of a young shepherd to his beloved lady love "to come and live with him." It is not a marriage proposal but only a 'live-in' arrangement.

The tone of the poem is both idealistic and idyllic. The shepherd lists out only the pleasures and not the drawbacks or dangers of a pastoral life to tempt her into accepting his offer, hence the promises which he makes are only meant to flatter and seduce her and are certainly not realistic.

In the third stanza he promises her that he will make her a bed of fragrant flowers like posies and roses. He says he will make her a cap of flowers and that her skirt will be embroidered with myrtle leaves.

In the fifth and sixth stanzas he promises to make her a woolen gown and fur lined slippers with golden buckles and a belt made of straw and ivy buds with coral clasps and amber studs.

In the seventh stanza he concludes his long list of pastoral attractions  by promising her that every "May-morning" (every day in the month of May) country youths shall dance and sing  and entertain her if she agrees to "live with him and be his love."

'Swain' is a poetic word for 'country or village youth.'

Read the study guide:
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

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