The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Some time ago, I stumbled upon Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” It delighted me—it is so beautifully written. Instinctively, I picked up my guitar and quickly set it to music. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you really need to read this poem:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There 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 linèd 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
Prepared 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.

Not long after discovering this—even before my dear friend Andrea could ruin it by pointing out that it was foolish youthful sentimentality—I discovered that Sir Walter Raleigh (yes, that guy) had written a response: “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” It too is a beautiful poem (although Marlowe’s is clearly superior in poetic beauty):

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall,

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten—
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind may move
To live with thee and be thy love.

I don’t have a lot to say about this poem, other than that it says exactly what Andrea would have said had I posted only the “The Passionate Shepherd.” However, it occurred to me that the two poems would work well together as a male-female duet. In fact, the phrasing of the two poems are identical—so I didn’t even have to change the music. Here is the chord structure which would cover two verses:

A / / / | A / / / | D / / / | A / / / |
E / / / | D / / / | E / / / | D / / / ||

And the structure would consist of four male verses (two music), four female verses, two male verses, two female verses, and then the last two verses sung at the same time by both—sort of like “Touch me in the Morning.” This is six verses each. You might have noticed that Marlowe’s poem has seven verses; I omit the verse above that has an asterisk after it.

I am not yet happy with the second part of the melody, but here is the first part (the AADA part). Note that the triplets are not strict (as you can tell from the chord structure, it is kind of bluesy and thus loose). Eventually, I will try to get a couple of kids from the local college to come over and record it and I’ll post it here. But even before that, I’ll post the second half of the melody.

Passionate Shepherd Music Part 1

4 thoughts on “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

    • I didn’t. I should. But it’s such a simple song and I’m not much of a performer and I don’t get out much. I really ought to record it so that someone good might be able to use it. I’ll think about it. I’ve been thinking of doing some more videos.

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