The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

by Christopher Marlowe

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What is the tone of "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love?"

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The tone of the poem 'The Passionate Shepherd to his Love' by Christopher Marlowe is thoughtful, contemplative and dreamy. The rhythm is gentle and sing-song - almost like a lullaby as if the poet is coaxing his love with soporific words. The whole poem reads like a daydream description. The poet is not talking about things as they actually are in real life, but rather as he'd like them to be  -asking his sweetheart to come live with him and be his love. In idyllic language and neat verses, he spells out some of the pastoral scenes they could enjoy together - mostly only the attractive parts of the agricultural life. he pays scant regard to the harsh necessities such a 'love' might have to be prepared to undertake in terms of farm labouring and animal husbandry. We are left to wonder whether she will be convinced!

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I would say that the main tone of this poem is ironic or exaggerated.  I believe that it is meant to be something of a spoof of traditional romantic poetry -- especially of pastoral poetry.

Traditionally, this type of poem would have the speaker telling his beloved that she should fall in love with him and they would be able to live happily ever after, generally in a rural setting (rural settings were seen as more calm and contented than urban ones).

In this poem, Marlowe still does this, but he takes it to a ridiculous extreme.  He promises all sorts of things that could never possibly happen.  Because of this, I think the best way to describe the tone is "ironic" or "exaggerated."

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What is the mood of the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe?

Despite the apparent simplicity of Marlowe's famous poem, its tone is multi-faceted. Above all the expression is a worshipful one, of both the speaker's love and of nature. It is also hypnotic in tone. The words are beautiful in the musical way that entrances the reader, as the shepherd is attempting to do with the girl he is wooing. If there is a quality about the tone that is paradoxical in some sense, it lies in the fact that the words could be construed as almost banal (by a cynic) in their way, and yet they are astonishing in the variety, in the multiplicity, of the ideas Marlowe uses to convey a simple thought.

As in pastoral poetry in general, the tone is intended to invoke an Eden, a realm in which man and woman can enjoy the fruits of the earth without fear or guilt. Above all, then, there is an innocence projected by the speaker, even though he is attempting a seduction. This could be seen as a kind of irony at the heart of the poem. One also can say that the wording is so smooth and gentle (and this is why it's hypnotic) that it could put one to sleep, like a lullaby.

Marlowe's poem inspired other poets to write "answers" to it, the most famous of which is probably Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." What is interesting, apart from the fact that Raleigh's poem is also great, is that although its meaning is in some way the opposite of Marlowe's, one can find more similarities than differences between the "tone" of the two poems.

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