Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

16 May 2011

Come Live with Me

When I think of love I always think of the following poem by Christopher Marlowe. I thought of it again last night as a friend and I were speaking about choosing non-Shakespearean readings for a wedding, and then I realized I never have posted it on here before. So:

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 will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered 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 sure why I like this as much as I do, but the phrase "come live with me and be my love" veritably haunts me. I think of it constantly. To me, that is what love is: a comfortable cohabitation, a kind of dance of movements through a shared space, easy relationality and calm. 
The notion of "my love," is interesting, too – the way it's phrased I mean. He says come live with me and be my love as though it is a kind of position, a role, or slot that can be filled by almost anyone. But the poet asks this particular beloved to come be his love. It is a request to fill a need rather than a head-over-heels madness. We choose who we love, and the poet admits that he might have chosen otherwise. But he doesn't choose otherwise. He chooses this beloved for this moment in time. To me, this is love.


  1. I always loved that poem too. and it reminds me of this one as well:


  2. PS: your poem is also known as Passionate Shepherd to His Love and there is a reply by Sir Walter Raleigh (truly a wet blanket):

  3. Whether Raleigh is a wet blanket or not (and he is), isn't it rather lovely that he responds to what might ostensibly be a poem to a girl (it might, obviously, be to a boy, as well). And so Marlowe writes a love poem and Raleigh responds.

    (I've always loved that Coy Mistress poem, too.)

  4. This makes me SUPER nostalgic for my English major days when all I did was read and talk about literature. Sigh.

    Thanks for bringin' me back.