Worksheet for The Passionate Shepherd to his Love

(1) Look up words that you do not understand

(2) Look at each verse and summarise it

(3) Pick out some of the images that refer to:

  • the countryside
  • shepherds
  • what the poet will do
  • the gods

(4) What effects do your chosen images create?  (e.g. ‘ivory’ is lustrous and very rare: the image therefore makes us realise how sensuous the idea of eating from such a table would be)   How does the poet make the words suit/develop his purpose?

(5) Using the detail of the images, consider what he might be saying about the countryside, the lives of shepherds etc.  Answer:

  • why madrigals?
  • Why do shepherd feed their flocks?
  • What symbolism and punning is there in beds of roses?
  • Why a belt of straw and ivy buds?
  • Look at the adjectives, pretty  lambs, coral  clasps, , shallow rivers, purest  gold, ivory tables.  Find others.  What is the significance of each adjective and what is the overall impression of them?

(6) This poem describes an empirical world i.e. one of sense experiences – identify the different ways that the senses are used.

(7) Where does repetition occur in the poem? What is its purpose?  How would you describe the tone of ‘Come live with me’ ?  What is the tone of ‘Then live with me’ bearing in mind that it comes at the end of the poem.

(8) Look for alliteration – how does it help the meaning and purpose of phrases?

(9) How does the poet suggest that love has an enduring quality that is everlasting?

(10) Rhyming couplets can make a poem seem less serious.  Does it here?  If so, what might the advantage be in this poem?  If not, what is its effect?  Give example(s).

(11) The poet writes, using the first person and ‘you’.  Consider why he does this for both of the following:

  • if he is talking to one person in particular
  • if he is writing for us all

(12) How would you interpret the poem if:

  • The poet were really a shepherd
  • The poet were not a shepherd.
  • The poet was not writing to a loved one?


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