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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

by Christopher Marlowe

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Summary

The poem begins with a request from the speaker, "come live with me, and be my love," pretty please with a cherry on top, and goes on to list a series of promises from the speaker to the object of his affections about all the fun activities they'll do together if the offer is accepted.

They'll explore valleys, groves, hills and fields, they'll sit on rocks and watch the shepherds, and they'll listen to birds sing to the tune of waterfalls. But that's not all. Fancy duds from the city won't do for all that time in the great outdoors, so the speaker promises to make some clothes and accessories better suited for the occasion: caps of flowers, straw belts, lambs' wool gowns, beds of roses, you get the picture. And we're still not done. The speaker's final promises, gold buckles, coral clasps, amber studs, and dancing shepherds, are loftier still.

As the promises continue to drift outside the realm of what the speaker can actually guarantee, the speaker makes a crucial change of gears. The poem opened with a general request—come live with me and be my love—but it closes with a conditional one. The speaker now only wants the love to come if she is "move[d]" by the delights and pleasures that were listed in the poem, delights that it seems increasingly unlikely the speaker will be able to provide (we mean, who has a troupe of dancing shepherds on retainer?). The poem ends with a cliffhanger, as we never get to hear the love's reply.

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