Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
And all the craggy mountains 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 linéd 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.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat,
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepar’d each day for thee and me.

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.


Once upon a time I taught this poem to a high school class. A roomful of girls complained about the obnoxious unreliable narrator, and then the only boy in the class spoke up: "I think it's beautiful." He blushed. All of the girls fell silent and then, in one motion, turned toward him as if the scales had just fallen from their eyes and they suddenly, for a moment, saw him as the romantic hero of his dreams. It was a very odd situation to sit through, as an observer.

The Marlowe poem reminds me of the Carruth excerpt I posted yesterday: two versions of the voice of the coaxing male. Some readers will find them charming, and some will find them unpleasant. But a boy's gotta ask, doesn't he? It's possible I didn't ponder so much about that conundrum before I was the mother of sons.


Carlene said...

Just yesterday, my Brit Lit class and I were comparing the speaker/tone of this poem, Passionate Shepherd, to the speaker/tone (and purpose!) of To His Coy Mistress (Marvell). There's a whole tradition of these poems, and the boys as well as the girls find them funny, awkward, and, at times, kind of sweet.

Dawn Potter said...

I think these are great poems to teach of h.s. kids. Because the emotions are fresh and accessible, the students have a hook into negotiating the language differences. I also love teaching Hamlet's soliloquy as a stand-alone monologue. He is such classic teenager in--overdramatic, mopey, arrogant, unreliable, lovable--and student reactions to him are so precise and entertaining.