A Comparison and Contrast of Love in Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" and C. Day Lewis's "Song"
In the poems "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe and "Song" by C. Day Lewis, the speakers display their individual views of what can be expected with their love. Both speakers produce invitations to love with differences in what they have to offer. A list of promised delights is offered by the speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd," and through persuasion, is able to influence the emotions of his love. The speaker in "Song" shows the difficulties of his life, as seen in his economic necessity and lack of material pleasures, but subsequently offers his love unconditionally in order to convince his beloved. In comparison the poems expose the speakers' use of separate methods to influence their loves. Through comparing and contrasting the context in which the invitations occur, what each speaker offers, and the tone of each speaker, these differing methods can be understood.
The "Passionate Shepherd" is set in a romantic, natural backdrop in the seventeenth century. In this rural setting the Shepherd displays his flock and pastures to his love while promising her garlands and wool for weaving. Many material goods are offered by the speaker to the woman he loves in hopes of receiving her love in return. He also utilizes the power of speech to attempt to gain the will of his love. In contrast, the poem "Song" is set in what is indicative of a twentieth century depression, with an urban backdrop that is characteristically unromantic. The speaker "handle(s) dainties on the docks" (5) , showing that his work likely consists of moving crates as a dock worker. He extends his affection through the emphasis of his love and how it has endured and survived all hardships. He uses the truth of his poor and difficult situation as a tool to entice his love.
In the "Passionate Shepherd", the speaker offers his lover a multitude of delights to persuade her emotions in his favor. At the very beginning of the poem he states his intention that "we will all the pleasures prove" (2) , creating a basis upon which all his promises are centered. Using the natural setting of the poem as the framework for this idealistic lifestyle, the speaker furnishes his love through the use of natural objects such as clothes and accessories. He describes "A gown made of the finest wool / Which from our pretty lambs we pull" (13-14) and "Fair lines slippers for the cold / With buckles of the purest gold" (15-16) to influence his love's decision. His gifts continue with "A belt of straw and ivy buds / With coral clasps and amber studs" (17-18) to soften her heart in his favor. Through these generous offerings the speaker hopes to attract her with objects but in the process fails to offer himself. This reveals his superficial attitude towards women where by they can be manipulated with gifts and promises, and in turn shows a sign of his possible sexual intentions. The speaker is possibly trying to obscure his love long enough to take control and have his way with her. This idea is reinforced in the line "I will make thee a bed of roses" (9) , which contains underlying sexual connotations. These intentions are masked in the speaker's persuasive nature as he seduces his love with romantic images of "Melodious birds sing(ing) madrigals" (8) . It can also be observed that all the gifts which represent the speaker's love are all fabricated from nature, such as "A cap of flowers, and a kirtle / Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle" (11-12) . Due to the fact that all substances of nature eventually die, this could imply that as the gifts will die so will his love for her. In comparison to the offering of the speaker in "Song", the shepherd appears to be insincere.
The speaker in "Song" does not try to impress his love with grandeur. He does not proclaim the gifts he can give her but emphasizes...
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Marlowe, Christopher. "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love." The Broadview
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Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1993. 414.
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