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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love


by Christopher Marlowe

Nature Imagery

Symbol Analysis

Anytime you're dealing with a pastoral, it's safe to assume there's going to be lots of nature imagery in the mix. We're talking frolicking lambs, rolling hills, babbling brooks, and cows that magically never poop. It's all drop dead gorgeous, and it's all too good to be true. Marlowe chooses nature's idealized form for "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" because nature is meant to be seductive. The speaker is hoping the beauty of nature will convince the beloved to move to the countryside, which is why Marlowe sneaks all of the natural imagery into the promises or arguments of the poem.

  • Lines 3-4: The speaker promises "all the pleasures" of valleys, groves, hills, and fields, woods, [and] steepy mountains." That's a lot of different kinds of scenery, which the speaker hopes translates into a lot of different ways to enjoy oneself.
  • Line 5-8: Not only is nature beautiful, it is also relaxing, peaceful, and safe. The image here of the two lovers sitting on rocks by a river, watching sheep graze in the fields nearby to the tune of birds singing is designed to be both beautiful and soothing.
  • Lines 9-12: The floral imagery referenced in this stanza—roses, posies, flowers, and myrtle leaves—suggests that this countryside is blooming, fruitful, and fertile. Fertility and prosperity were primary concerns for both women and men in Marlowe's day, and definitely good things to have in your pocket if you're trying to woo someone to come live with you.
  • Line 14: The reference to the lambs in line 14 shows how, in this idealized version of the natural world, the countryside provides everything you could need, similar to the way the Garden of Eden is described in the Hebrew Bible. Need clothes? Never fear, all the wool in the world is just a hand stretch away.

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