Study Guide

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Sensory Imagery

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Sensory Imagery

Spring has sprung! Or, you know, maybe not. But if you've been reading "The Passionate Shepherd to his love", you've probably got the twitter of birds, the smell of flowers, and green hills a-plenty all rolling around inside your head. Because of all the computer lingo we use these days, its easy to forget that a poetic image, unlike a digital image, doesn't have to be purely visual. Sensory imagery, or imagery that appeals to senses like smell, taste, touch, and hearing, is all over the place in Marlowe's poem. And his decision to take his poetic imagery beyond the visual helps bring the idealized countryside to life for his readers.

  • Line 5: Sitting on the rocks isn't the most exciting of sensory experiences, but the subtlety is part of what makes the imagery so clever. Everyone knows what it feels like to sit on a rock, and reading that line adds a tactile dimension to the poem. It sparks a concept, rock-sitting, in your brain that adds texture to the mental image conjured by the poem without being so foreign or complicated that it distracts from what the poet is saying.
  • Line 6: See the shepherds! Watch the sheep! Let your eyes soak in the quaintness and beauty of everyday life all around you! This is a visual image. Standard, but effective.
  • Line 8: We're now sitting on rocks, watching sheep, and listening to birds sing in harmony to the sound of a nearby waterfall—all at the same time. The sensory experiences in lines 5-8 combine with each other to create a picture of bliss, comfort, and relaxation. By simultaneously ending the stanza and the description of the image with line 8, Marlowe leaves his readers with a multi-sensory image in their minds. 
  • Line 9-10: But the sensory imagery doesn't stop there. Lines 9 and 10 bring in the fragrant smell of flowers and the softness and sensuality of rose petals.
  • Lines 19 and 23: The use of the word "move" at the end of both these lines underscores the stimulating sensory atmosphere of the poem. Being "moved" by pleasures and delights implies an emotional and physical response as opposed to boring old thoughts.

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