The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
is a poem written by the English
poet Christopher Marlowe
in the 1590s.
In addition to being one of the most well-known love poems in the English language, it is considered one of the earliest examples of the pastoral
style of British
poetry in the late Renaissance
period. It is composed in Iambic tetrameter
(four feet of unstressed/stressed syllables), with six stanzas each composed of two rhyming couplets. It is often used for scholastic purposes because the poem is a good example of regular meter and rhythm.
The poem was the subject of a well-known "reply" by Walter Raleigh, called
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd. The interplay between the two poems extends into the relationship that Marlowe had with Raleigh. Marlowe was young, his poetry romantic, rhythmic, and in the Passionate Shepherd he idealises the love object (the Nymph). Raleigh was an old courtier, and an accomplished poet himself. His attitude is more jaded, and in writing the Nymph's reply it is clear that he is rebuking Marlowe for being naive and juvenile in both his writing style and the Shepherd's thoughts about love. Subsequent responses to Marlowe have come from John Donne , C Day Lewis , William Carlos Williams ,Ogden Nash ,W. D. Snodgrass , Douglas Crase and Greg Delanty
The poem was adapted for the lyrics of the 1930s-style swing song performed by Stacey Kent at the celebratory ball in the 1995 film of William Shakespeare's Richard III. Shakespeare was a contemporary of Marlowe, but given that his historical play was set in the 15th century, the use of Marlowe's lyrics was anachronistic, if effective. It was also the third of the Liebeslieder Polkas for Mixed Chorus and Piano Five Hands, written by P.D.Q. Bach (released in 1980) and performed by the Swarthmore College Chorus.
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle:
A gown made of the finest wool,
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold:
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning;
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.