What is the theme/meaning of 'The passionate shepherd to his love?'

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," by Christopher Marlowe, is a beautiful example of pastoral love poetry; that is, it depicts love in a rural, countryside setting.

The entire poem is an invitation, spoken by the shepherd to his beloved, to "Come live with me and be my Love."  The shepherd promises that if his beloved will come live with him, they will enjoy together "all the pleasures...That hills and valleys, dale and field, And all the craggy mountains" can offer.

The shepherd begins by setting the scene in which he and his beloved will live: they will "sit upon the rocks...By shallow rivers" and listen to the songs of "Melodious birds." 

He then promises to make a variety of gifts for his beloved.  Among the gifts are: "a cap of flowers"; a "kirtle [dress or skirt] / Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle"; "A gown made of the finest wool"; "A belt of straw and ivy buds."

The shepherd also describes how he and his beloved will eat from silver dishes set on an ivory table.

He concludes with a proposition:

If these delights thy mind may may move,

Then live with me and be my Love. 

In other words, if you are emotionally touched by the prospect of these pleasures, then please come and be my Love.

Are all these pastoral pleasures meant as metaphors for sexual pleasures?  That is for each reader to consider.

The poem consists of 7 stanzas, each containing 4 lines.  Each line has 8-9 syllables.  Each stanza uses a simple AABB rhyme scheme.

The poet rhymes the word "love," with "prove" and "move"; it is likely that he pronounced the word "love" more like "loove."

 

 

 

 

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