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Themes

The Rolling Stones thought time was on their side, and that seems to be the case for our speaker, as well. The speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is writing what we call a carpe diem poem—he's seizing the day. In literature, the carpe diem tradition usually features a man trying to convince a beautiful maiden to surrender her virginity pronto because she could drop dead at any minute and wouldn't it be a shame for her to die without ever having had sex, especially with him. It's employed a little less obviously in this poem than in others (we're looking at you, Marvell), but the general vibe is still there: come live me with and be my love, we'll have a great time and we'll worry about all that future stuff, like your reputation, later.

Questions About Time

  1. What indications do you see in the poem that the speaker is more concerned with short-term as opposed to long-term plans? 
  2. How does the imagery in the poem reflect the carpe diem tradition?
  3. Why might the carpe diem argument be attractive to the person reading this poem? Why might it be unattractive? What, if anything, does the speaker do to make it seem more attractive than it is?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The references to springtime, flowers, and fertility in the poem are symbolic of the fact that the speaker's interest in the addressee is oh so temporary.

The poem's implementation of the carpe diem tradition is a clear indication that Marlowe sees the speaker of this poem as male and the addressee as female.

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