Turn of Events in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

At first glance, Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love seems like a poem about a pure love. He wants to move to the country side with his lover and he promises her “beds of roses,” buckles of the purest gold,” “coral clasps and amber studs,” and many other extravagant and romantic things. He acts as if he has the capacity to give her all of these things and that he will only bring her happiness if she moves with him to the “valleys, groves, hills, and fields.”

If I only read the poem through once, I would have ended my opinion of the poem at that. However, after repeating the poem aloud, I realized that there is a turn of events at the second to last line of the poem,

“If these delights thy mind may move,

Then live with me and be my love.”

I did not think much of these last two lines. However, the keyword here is “if.” When I first read the poem, the catchy rhymes and smooth flow had me completely overlook the subtle turn around. After around the third time of reciting the poem, my tone changed at the last two lines without myself realizing. The word “if” made me realize that he is promising all of these things for the mere purpose of getting the girl to come with him. He may give her all of these things-only he will know-but from the context I felt that he is making empty promises. It made me think of the saying, “promises are made to be broken.”


One comment

  • Nice post, Alice! Like Priya, I get the sense that you’re a little skeptical about the poem’s speaker’s intentions. I like the close attention you’ve paid to the “if” here as a kind of turn.

Leave a Reply