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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

by Christopher Marlowe

Stanzas 5-6 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 17-18

A belt of straw, and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs,

  • Our speaker is really blazon-ing a trail here.
  • We're also moving increasingly farther away from promises the speaker can legitimately keep. Coral and amber were costly products in Marlowe's time.
  • They certainly weren't up for grabs in the countryside, and we're willing to bet that they were out of the price range of most shepherds.
  • Is this a sign that our speaker is growing increasingly desperate? Is it a sign that the speaker is untrustworthy? Are the promises we're reading even meant to be taken literally?

Lines 19-20

And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

  • Line 19 tells the speaker's love that if the awesome things described in the poem so far "move" or win you over… then you should follow the instructions in line 20 and high-tail it to the countryside.
  • The use of the word "pleasures" here adds a sexual charge to the stanza. Could the speaker's intention be more lust- and less love-oriented than we were led to believe?
  • It's also a call back to the first stanza of the poem, reminding us that at its heart, this poem is an argument. He's attempting to persuade his audience—the object of his affections—and he'll use a refrain to do it.
  • The word "move" implies a feeling fueled by emotions or gut instincts. This gives us a heads up as to what tactics the speaker is using to persuade the recipient of the poem to do what he wants.
  • The "if" in Line 19 also alters the "come live with me" request from the form in which we first encounter it back in Line 1. The "if" makes it conditional, which tells us that the speaker now wants the person to come if and only if the aforementioned fun times are appealing to them. 
  • That's an interesting way to phrase it, since it seems less and less likely those pleasures are within the speaker's ability to provide.

Lines 21-22

The shepherds's swains shall dance and sing,
For thy delight each May-morning,

  • We've arrived. This, folks, is the speaker's final promise and, true to form, it's even more difficult to ensure than the last. 
  • Lines 21 and 22 promise that shepherd swains, or young men, will dance and sing for the beloved's delight every morning in the month of May. Unlike the expensive clothes, which at least the speaker was trying to make, this is something completely beyond the speaker's control: how can the speaker guarantee what other people will do for his beloved?
  • Now let's discuss this whole shepherd business. If you've got shepherds in a poem, you'll probably have a pastoral. But if you've got shepherds in a poem from Elizabethan England, you also have a potential reference to good old Queen Bess herself.
  • This is thanks to a guy named Edmund Spenser, who wrote a collection of poems called The Shephearde's Calendar in which he compared Queen Elizabeth to a shepherdess. (This might seem offensive, but back in the day you weren't exactly allowed to come out and speak your mind about politics. Allegory and symbolism were ways in which people could express discontent without getting their heads chopped off.)
  • References to May are also pretty typical of pastoral poetry. May is associated with the countryside primarily because of the folk custom of celebrating May Day (May 1). These celebrations were of pagan origin, though, and usually involved lots of debauchery in the form of drinking, canoodling, and so forth, so the Puritans were really cranky about the fact that they still went on. Mentioning May, May Day, May games or anything like that in a poem is often a sneaky jab at the Puritan church as well as a reference to a frequently idealized country folk tradition.

Lines 23-24

If these delights thy mind may move;
Then live with me, and be my love.

  • These lines seem pretty similar to lines 19 and 20, but there are some important differences in the wording. 
  • First, the speaker is talking about "delights" instead of "pleasures," a switch that reduces the sexual charge of the statement. 
  • The speaker has also introduced "the mind" into the picture. The word "move" is still used, but here it is the addressee's mind that is being swayed, not, by contrast, her body or emotions.
  • The "live with me, and be my love" phrase is repeated three times in this poem, which is a big heads up that it's probably important. 
  • It's possible that this guy wants to do more than just shack up. Maybe, if he's interested in his love's mind as much as he's interested in her body and all the fancy clothes he's going to put on it, he might want, you know, a life with her. In which case this poem is quite swoony.
  • It's your call Shmoopers. Just what, exactly, are this dude's intentions?

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