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 that his love is
displayed through the hardships he endures. The speaker in this poem simply
offers his honesty. Like the speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd," this speaker
"will all the pleasures prove" (2) . The difference being that the speaker from
"Song" offers it only on the "chance that employment may afford (it)" (4) . The
speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd" promises to make "A gown of the finest
wool" (13) , but the speaker