Percy's Reliques - The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.

The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.

            This beautiful sonnet is quoted in The Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii. sc. i. and hath been usually ascribed (together with the Reply) to Shakspeare himself by the modern editors of his smaller poems. A copy of this madrigal, containing only four stanzas (the 4th and 6th being wanting), accompanied with the first stanza of the answer, being printed in The Passionate Pilgrime, and Sonnets to sundry Notes of Musicke, by Mr. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE. Lond. printed for W. Jaggard, 1599. Thus was this sonnet, &c. published as Shakspeare's in his life-time.

            And yet there is good reason to believe that (not Shakspeare, but) Christopher Marlow wrote the song, and Sir Walter Raleigh the Nymph's Reply. For so we are positively assured by Isaac Walton, a writer of some credit, who has inserted them both in his Compleat Angler,[ 1] under the character of "that smooth song, which was made by Kit. Marlow, now at least fifty years ago; and . . . an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days . . . old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good." It also passed for Marlow's in the opinion of his contemporaries; for in the old Poetical Miscellany, intitled England's Helicon, it is printed with the name of Chr. Marlow subjoined to it; and the Reply is signed Ignoto, which is known to have been a signature of Sir Walter Raleigh. With the same signature Ignoto, in that collection, is an imitation of Marlow's beginning thus:

"Come live with me, and be my dear,
And we will revel all the year,
In plains and groves, &c."

            Upon the whole I am inclined to attribute them to Marlow, and Raleigh; notwithstanding the authority of Shakspeare's Book of Sonnets. For it is well known that as he took no care of his own compositions, so was he utterly regardless what spurious things were fathered upon him. Sir John Oldcastle, The London Prodigal, and The Yorkshire Tragedy, were printed with his name at full length in the title-pages, while he was living, which yet were afterwards rejected by his first editors Heminge and Condell, who were his intimate friends (as he mentions both in his will), and therefore no doubt had good authority for setting them aside.[ 2]

            The following sonnet appears to have been (as it deserved) a great favourite with our earlier poets: for, besides the imitation above mentioned, another is to be found among Donne's Poems, intitled The Bait, beginning thus:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, &c.

            As for Chr. Marlow, who was in high repute for his dramatic writings, he lost his life by a stab received in a brothel, before the year 1593.-- See A. Wood, i. 138.

COME live with me, and be my love,
And we wil all the pleasures prove
That hils and vallies, 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 will I make thee beds of roses
With a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Imbrodered all with leaves of mirtle;

A gown made of the finest wool,
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Slippers lin'd choicely from the cold;
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw, and ivie buds,
With coral clasps, and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

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.

THE NYMPH'S REPLY

IF that the World and Love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's toung,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee, and be thy love.

But time drives flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage, and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
And all complain of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yield:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancies spring, but sorrows 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 ivie 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 joyes no date, nor age no need;
Then those delights my mind might move
To live with thee, and be thy love.

NOTES

1. First printed in the year 1653, but probably written some time before.

2. Since the above was written, Mr. Malone, with his usual discernment, hath rejected the stanzas in question from the other sonnets, &c. of Shakspeare, in his correct edition of the Passionate Pilgrim, &c. See his Shakspere vol. x. p. 340.

 

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