Both ‘The Passionate Shepherd’ and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ are dramatic monologues representing the voice of a gentleman and they are both arguments trying to win the favour of a lady. However, Christopher Marlowe has written his poem in a simple verse form of rhyming quatrains, where as Marvell writes in a more sophisticated form of tetrameters to quicken the pace and give a sense of urgency to the gentleman’s persuasion. The gentleman’s argument is then presented in the form of a syllogism. The poems both have a similar ploy; they are both trying to lure a lady into a life of love. However the speaker’s about this in different ways.
Marlowe’s vision of love in ‘A Passionate Shepherd’ is very sweet, charming and delightful whereas in contrast Marvell’s vision in ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is one of darkness, urgency and insistence. Marlowe’s world is timeless; the lovers have endless leisure together in the season of May. Nothing ever changes and the seasons never move on. Love is sweet and innocent and there is no mention to the physical side of the relationship. Marlowe’s poem is very idealistic and is written in the pastoral form.
The scene that he has created is filled with appealing images of flowers and pretty clothes, it is charming and innocent. On the other hand Marvell’s world is time ridden. He first presents a courtship where time stands still, like a fantasy. Then in the next part of his argument he brings the lady back to reality where time moves fast and so they have to seize their opportunities for love in the manner of ‘carpe diem’. He presents an image of time as a winged chariot bearing down upon them. Marvell’s love is much more realistic and adult; his gentleman’s speaker is very suggestive of a physical relationship.
‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ by Christopher Marlowe
‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ represents the voice of a simple shepherd and is written in the pastoral style, which was very popular in the 16th century. By adopting the voice of a shepherd addressing the lady directly using first and second person, the poet casts the reader into the role of the lady. The shepherd is apparently wooing us as the audience. The poet is urging the lady to share a ‘life of love’ and of happiness with him. The speaker presents a very unrealistic vision of an idyllic life in the English countryside.
Through stanzas 2-6 the shepherd claims that if the lady were to live with him she would enjoy a life of luxury. She would gain peace by sitting ‘upon the rocks’ and listening to ‘birds singing madrigals’. Any one who lives in the countryside would know that it would be impossible to make birds sing in chorus and in perfect harmony with each other. Marlowe exaggerates the pleasures of country life to make them seem a lot more appealing to the lady.
Usually you would find roses in the countryside but he presents them to her as ‘beds of roses’ and ‘a thousand fragrant posies’. However, if he were a shepherd he would not have the time to collect such quantities of flowers; the promise is very unrealistic. The shepherd presents many materialistic luxuries for the lady to enjoy including ‘a cap of flowers’ and a gown and a kirtle. The gown is ’embroidered all with leaves of myrtle’ and the kirtle is ‘made of the finest wool’. ‘Fair lined slippers… with buckles of the purest gold’ are also offered, as well as,
‘A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs’
The exaggeration here and lack of realism are so obvious that Marlowe seems to be mocking the pastoral form. We see the same lack of realism in other gifts offered by the shepherd: ‘gold buckles’. The shepherd builds an appealing fantasy for the lady. Marlowe’s shepherd appeals to four of the lady’s five senses when trying to win her over. He promises the lady, she will be able to listen to ‘melodious birds sing madrigals’ and then says she will be able to see the shepherd swains sing and dance together. His use of alliteration also emphasises this image of delightful sounds when he repeats the ‘m’ in ‘madrigals’ and ‘melodious’. He repeats this alliteration throughout the whole of the poem to emphasise all of his charming fantasy and the lack of realism also continues throughout the whole poem. There is no reference to the cold or the winter, just the summer and the beauty of the spring is mentioned. The shepherd offers to the lady a timeless world where it is always May. There is always leisure and time to watch
‘The shepherds’ swains sing and dance
For thy delight in each May morning’.
The seasons never change, it is a charming fantasy. However, Marlowe does create some of an illusion of realism through ‘craggy mountains’ and ‘fair-lined slippers for the cold’ but most of the pleasures to the lady are exaggerated and unrealistic. Most of the gifts he offers aren’t possible because either no shepherd would be able to afford them or he wouldn’t have time to find and/or gather them. The way in which Marlowe describes the shepherd’s pastoral world is very well done with carefully chosen adjectives: ‘purest gold’, ‘finest wool’, ‘melodious birds’. With this Marlowe creates a picture of impossible sweetness, a charming rural idyll. The shepherd’s voice becomes increasingly consistent, urgent as he persuades the lady three times. He first presents her with the idea to ‘come live with me and be my love’, after this he bribes her with gifts and the promise of a safe and luxurious life. At the end of the 5th stanza he then again proposes that she ‘come live with me and be my love’. Then in the final verse he concludes by saying that if the lady likes the bribes that he has to offer, she should live with him and share a life of love
‘If these delights my mind may move
Then live with me and be my love’.
He clinches his argument in the final line.
Sir Walter Raleigh’s reply to ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ appropriately entitled ‘The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd’ matches the structure and verse form of Marlowe’s original poem exactly. The speaker in Raleigh’s poem has taken the role of a nymph, she speaks in response to the shepherd and so the reader gives her the role of the lady from Marlowe’s original poem. The nymph indicates that she won’t be persuaded because she is sceptical that his ideal could ever exist. She also doubts whether the shepherd is telling her the truth.
‘If all the world and love were young
And truth is in every shepherd’s tongue’
She rejects the shepherd’s many offers mainly because she rejects his timeless world. She knows that time will change everything; she believes winter will come and then no-one will be able to sit on rocks and listen to bird song.
‘Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold’
Raleigh’s nymph considers each of the shepherd’s gifts and promises. She declares that time will wither or ruin them all. None of the gifts would be fit to last
‘The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter yields;’
The gifts are a pretty but impossible fiction. Just as ‘The Passionate Shepherd’ urges the lady three times, Raleigh’s nymph considers ad rejects his offer three times, in the first, the penultimate and the final stanzas. Her rejection is very emphatic in the penultimate stanza.
‘All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love’
The mood and tone of the nymph changes in the final stanza, there is a note of sadness and regret. She recognises the sweetness and almost pleading of the shepherd’s fantasy. However, she realises that reality is still there and that it is so much harsher.
‘But could youth last and love still breed
Had joys no date nor age no need,’
‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell
Like Marlowe, Marvell in ‘To his coy mistress’ adopts the persuasive voice of a lover urging his lady to be with him. Both poems are written in the view of a gentleman speaker and both are arguments, convincing a lady to spend time with them and love them. However, in contrast to Marlowe’s poem, Marvell’s writing style is much more sophisticated. Marvell’s poem is a syllogism and is written in rhyming tetrameters. The speaker urges his mistress throughout the poem to surrender herself to him and love without delay.
The arguments first of three parts presents a perfect timeless world for the lady. The gentleman started by introducing a charming and delightful fantasy by flattering her. He considers a timeless world, starting with a condition
‘Had we but world enough, and time
This coyness lady were no crime.’
He explains that if they were to live in this appealing world that he has created, her reluctance would present no problem. He considers what they would do, if they had endless time for an everlasting courtship. They would not have to hurry their relationship and they could have a life of luxury together in an exotic place like India.
‘Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Should’st rubies find:’
Marvell presents this image of the lady collecting rubies to tempt her into a life with him, much like Marlowe’s shepherd bribed his lady with gifts. Marvell’s speaker then goes on to amuse the lady by placing himself in a much more mundane landscape. He claims he would be lamenting his love by a river in Hull.
Similarly to Marlowe’s over exaggeration, Marvell includes a hyperbole by declaring the he would court her until the end of time, this is a very extravagant image. However in contrast to Marlowe’s innocence and charm the speaker in Marvell’s poem goes on to admire the lady with sexual suggestion and again hyperbole when flattering her by saying he would admire her eyes for an exaggerated 100 years but then he also says he would spend much longer on her breasts
‘Two hundred to adore each breast,’
The gentleman speaker is again suggestive of a physical relationship when presenting an image of ‘vegetable growth’ which would grow ‘vaster than empires’. An apparently flattering image of love is made mischievous through being combined with an image of organic growth. He continues to flatter her by saying she deserves such a long and stately courtship. The speaker ends the first part of his argument by saying that this is what he would wish to do. However the use of the conditional would reminds us that is all a fantasy.
Most similarities to Marlowe’s shepherd now fall away as Marvell’s gentleman proceeds into the second stage of his argument. The elaborate flattery of the lady stops for a while and suddenly the mood of the poem turns grim and sinister. The speaker introduces reality and shows that the fantasy does not exist when he threatens the lady with death
‘But at back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near:’
The gentleman’s presents an image of time bearing down upon the lady, catching up with her and time will bring her too her death. The speaker threatens her by forcing her to realise that no-one can see her beauty when she is underground, no-one will be able to sing to her and her chastity which she has tried to preserve will be taken by the worms.
‘ then worms shall try
That long preserv’d Virginity’
Marvell uses a very ironic and suggestive tone.
The playful ironic tone then changes when the speaker grimly reminds her of a funeral by echoing the words of a funeral service.
‘And your quaint honour turn to dust;
And into ashes all my lust’
He says that the honour which she has tried to preserve will turn to dust when her body does and so with it, so will his lust and desire for her. He makes a final ironic comment about the lady’s privacy explaining that the grave is a very private place if that is what she wants but there will be no-one to embrace you there.
‘The grave’s a fine and private place
But none I think do there embrace’
The final section of the poem is the proof of the argument. The poet first displayed to us a fantasy world of impossible endless time and the contrasted this with the harsher truer reality. This argument presents his solution that they should now enter a physical relationship without delay. The speaker calls it a ‘sport’ that they should enjoy. The elaborate flattery now continues
‘Now therefore while the youthful hue,
Sits on the skin like morning dew’
He suggests she should experience love while her skin is still young, fresh and exquisite. This idea is then contrasted with the image that her skin is on fire, filled with a young passion and they both shouldn’t let this passion burn out.
In contrast to Marlowe’s poem, Marvell’s speaker repeats the word now frequently towards the end showing his urgency. The gentleman represents an image of ‘iron gates’ and he urges the lady that she should be ready to ‘tear the pleasures’ through the iron gates of a harsh life. She needs to be vigorous and active.
Finally, the gentleman speaker adds a last playful ironic comment. He mocks the idea that lovers can make time ‘stand still’. However, he suggests to the lady that through their love they can make time speed up as they live life to the full and get the most out of every minute in the form of ‘carpe diem’.
Marlowe’s ad Marvell’s poems both focus on time. However, Marlowe’s poem is timeless. It centres on a world that is endless, it is full of luxury and you can live in happiness for eternity. Marvell’s poem starts off with a fantasy much the same but this jus to later contrast with the main feature of dark urgency to the rest of the poem. Marvell’s poem has images where time is catching up with you can you have to act fast to enjoy things while you can. Both poems also focus strongly on love. They are both persistent in luring a lady to fall in love with them.
Marlowe’s poem is innocent and sweet; the poet uses gifts and charming scenery and sounds to bribe the lady into loving the gentleman whereas in Marvell’s poem the love is more urgent and passionate. The love in Marvell’s poem is more adult and more suggestive of a physical relationship. Marlowe’s style and language is much simpler but Marvell’s style is sophisticated and the language he uses much more elaborate and complex. Marlowe’s poem is delightful and brighter, Marvell’s poem is deeper and more insistent.