‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ by Christopher Marlowe is a six stanza poem which is made up of sets of four lines, or quatrains. Each of these quatrains follows the consistent rhyming pattern of aabb ccdd… and so on. The poet has chosen to utilize this rhyming pattern in an effort to create a sing-song-like melody to the poem. It is a piece with a hopeful and pleasant tone, and the rhyme scheme emphasizes this feature.
The poem begins with the speaker asking his lover to come and be with him forever. If she does this simple thing, they will be able to experience all the joy that the world has to offer. They will have all the best in life.
He continues on to state that not only will they be happy in their love, but that he will create for her the most lovely of items. He will use the flowers in their new abode to craft pieces of clothing like hats and petticoats. The shepherd will also use the wool from their lambs to make her dresses. He clearly believes that these items of clothing will be enough, along with his love, to entice her to live with him.
By the end of the piece, it is not clear whether or not she accepts his offer, but he seems to understand that it is up to her. He has done his best, and is awaiting her answer.
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
The speaker of this poem, the “Passionate Shepherd,” begins by making the one request of his lover that serves as the basis for the rest of the poem. He at once lives up to his name as he asks his unnamed lover to “Come live with me.” He is hoping that she, upon hearing his request, will leave whatever life she is living behind, and come and “be [his] love” wherever he may be.
He does not leave her without some idea of what it will be like to live with him, in fact, he spends the majority of the rest of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ describing to his love what her life will be if she agrees.
The second half of this first quatrain describes how when the two of them are together, with nothing standing between them, they will “all the pleasures prove.” They will venture out into the world and “yield,” or take, from the “Valleys, groves, hills and fields / Woods, or steepy mountain[s],” everything they have to offer. There will be nothing in the world from which the couple cannot feel passion.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
In the second stanza of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’, the speaker goes on to describe some day to day details of what their lives would be like together. He states that they will “sit upon the Rocks” of this new and beautiful world they are living in together and “See” the “Shepherds” with their flocks of sheep. They will observe the world that they used to live in, and appreciate its intricacies.
Due to the fact that their lives are now devoted to one another and to the world they inhabit, they have time to notice the details around them. They will see and hear the “shallow Rivers,” and the “Melodious birds” which sing to the crashing of the falling water. The songs the birds sing will be like “Madrigals,” or harmonious pieces of music written for multiple voices.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
The shepherd still has a number of different enticements to offer his lover in the hope that she will join him. He describes how he will “make [her] a bed of Roses.” He will fill her life with flowers by creating for her a “kirtle” or an outer gown, and a “cap,” which will all be “Embroidered…with the leaves of Myrtle,” a common flowering shrub.
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;
In the fourth quatrain and the halfway point of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’, the speaker continues on describing the different pieces of clothing and accessories that he will craft for his lover. It is important to remember that all of these items are contingent on her coming to live with him.
He will spin for her a “gown made of the finest wool” from the lambs that they will tend together. His occupation is now working in her favor and he is able to make her exactly, what he thinks, she wants.
He does not neglect her feet and states that she will also have “Fair lined slippers” that she can wear when it gets cold. Her buckles on her shoes will be made of the “purest gold.”
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.
In the second to last stanza, he begins to conclude his offer. He finishes up describing the wardrobe she will have by describing her gaining a belt made “of straw and Ivy buds.” It will also feature “Coral clasps and Amber studs.” It is clear that the speaker is doing his utmost to find and describe things that he thinks she wants the most. Whether this is the case or not the reader will never know.
In the second half of the stanza, he repeats his request that if only she will “live with [him]” all “these pleasures” will be hers.
The Shepherds’ 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.
In the final section of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ the speaker describes how after she has accepted his offer the “Shepherds’ Swains,” or their comrades and lovers, will “dance and sing.” All people will “delight” in the fact that they are finally together as they should be.
In the last two lines, he repeats, for the third time, his offer. He asks that if “these delights” move “thy mind” then she should come “live with [him], and be [his] love.”