Theme of Passionate Love in the Poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the Song ‘Only the Good Die Young’

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Poetic and lyrical compositions often employ the use of a variety of techniques to communicate their core themes and messages to the audience. In this case, the pastoral poem of ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ by Christopher Marlowe holds a close correlation to a contemporary song by Billy Joel named ‘Only the Good Die Young’, where both of the pieces revolve around love and affection in which the authors profess romantic ideals to their beloved. In particular, the song and the poem hold distinctive similarities in both the theme and literary device throughout the works, while differentiating enormously in the style of love persuasion.

To begin with, the two compositions are predominantly professions of love from men to their beloved women. In ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’, Marlowe urges his lover to elope with him so that they can enjoy the pleasures of life. He writes: “Come live with me, and be my love,/ And we will all the pleasures prove” (Marlowe, 1-2). Likewise, Joel persuades his secret girlfriend, Virginia, to run away with him to partake in the pleasantries of the world. The singer affirms: “Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait,/ You Catholic girls start too late” (Joel, 1-2). In the first stanza of both the poem and song, a sense of urgency is detected in which the two composers cannot seem to be patient in waiting for their lovers’ arrival. More specifically, the first two lines in the poem and song depict this immediacy in which they sway the women to ‘hurry up’ and meet with them.

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In light of this, Marlowe’s and Joel’s compositions can be described as ‘carpe diem’ literary devices due to their insistence on living in the present. The two authors seem nonchalant about the future and instead remain obsessed with enjoying life at the moment that bestirs them in the pursuit of erotic love and carnal pleasures. In the poem, the narrator asserts: “And I will make thee beds of roses/ And a thousand fragrant posies” (Marlowe, 9-10), likewise Joel’s contemporary song lays emphasis on enjoying the bodily desires when she urges Virginia to forget her ‘curtain of virginity’ for the moment. He tells her: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints,/ The sinners are much more fun,/ You know that only the good die young” (Joel, 35-37). Through this confession, it is obvious that Joel cannot wait to consummate his union with his long-time lover.

Despite these similarities, the poem and the song differ slightly in the way they conveyed the persuasive message of erotic love. In the poem, Marlowe persuades the woman by mainly focusing on the vivid romantic imageries and love scenery in a dreamy and romantic tone, which is shown in quotes such as “A gown made of finest wool/ Then live with me, and be my love” (Marlowe, 13-24). In the song, however, Joel brings in the religious affiliation and the role of tradition played in one's love life. It presents a sense of rebelliousness in the romance, such as “Well your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation/ You Catholic girls start much too late” (Joel, 41-45). Despite these variations, ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and ‘Only the Good Die Young’ emerge as exemplary literary pieces reiterating the importance of love and relationships.

Works Cited

  1. Marlowe, Christopher. 'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love'. Literature: Grade 12, edited by Janet Allen et. al., Holt McDougal, 2012, p. 314.
  2. Joel, Billy Martin. 'Only the Good Die Young'. Genius Lyrics, Accessed 11 Nov. 2019.
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Theme of Passionate Love in the Poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the Song ‘Only the Good Die Young’. (2023, October 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“Theme of Passionate Love in the Poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the Song ‘Only the Good Die Young’.” Edubirdie, 26 Oct. 2023,
Theme of Passionate Love in the Poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the Song ‘Only the Good Die Young’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Theme of Passionate Love in the Poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the Song ‘Only the Good Die Young’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 26 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from:

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