Thursday, August 7, 2014

Analysis of "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe
More information about the Poet: Christopher Marlowe


This is my Dads favorite poem.  This was the poem he wanted to recite to my mother when they got married.  If he analyzed this poem he'd say there's a sense of romance in it.  The romance of the pastoral, "Come live with me and be my love, / And we will all the pleasures prove"

I would add that the aabb rhyme scheme adds to the sense of "couple," but the speaker is asking and he's describing his plan, "That valleys, groves, hills, and fields, / Woods, or sleepy mountain yields."  The expanse that they will have, and note nothing more than what they can explore.

"And we will sit upon rocks, / Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks."  Again back to the pastoral -- note that they are not doing, rather being in the scene, "By shallow rivers to whose falls / Melodious birds sing madrigals"  The alliteration along with the reference to songs brings a sort of giddy quality to the poem -- somewhat childlike -- and I think this is what the poem goes back to.  The pastoral is always a first love feeling.  There is beauty in the spring and the pastoral keeps to this feeling.

     And I will make thee beds of roses
     and a thousand fragrant poises
     A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
     Embroidered with leaves of myrtle:

And note how the progression starts -- the speaker making the "wedding dress" of the other, delicate and appealing to multiple senses (visual, texture, smell).  With each description the speaker is trying to bring the other there with him.

     A gown made of the finest wool
     Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
     Fair lined slippers for the cold,
     With buckles of the purest gold.

Note that the gold is for aesthetic appeal and not for monetary value.    The speaker, in a way, is creating his other in his image of beauty -- he is in control what the expanse is and the visual.

     A belt of straw and ivy buds
     With coral clasps and amber studs;
     And if these pleasures may thee move,
     Come live with me, and be my love.

I thought about the deeper implications: power in gender or the unrealistic landscape and other as a form of psychological control.  But, I think the last two lines of this stanza doesn't make me that cynical.  Yes, the speaker is dressing the ideal, but he is still asking.  Would the other be moved by this -- to live with him and be his love?

And to my father, probably, his intentions or what he sees in the poem is just that question -- could he makes something to his love to make him stay with him.  She said yes of course (that's why I'm here), but those other interpretations are still valid, but poetry is dependent on the reader not theory.

     The shepherds's swains shall dance and sing
     For thy delight each May morning:
     If these delights thy mind may move,
     Then live with me and be my love

How is the last stanza different from the previous one?  A lot more song in this one with the alliteration of the "s" in the first line -- then there's the repetition of the feeling of "delight" which goes with "thy" and "these" -- it is for the other.  So how is that for an argument?  I will bring you to the pastoral, make clothes of you from what is around, and the people will dance and sing for you.  Are these things not delightful?  Woiuld these things make you my love?  

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