Thursday, March 24, 2005

High School English Assignment (A Few Years Late)

Remember those creative writing assignments back in high school? If I could just re-write the one where we had to respond to Marlow's immodest proposal in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," I'd take a different approach . . . . That's the poem where the lovestruck shepherd says,

"Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove . . ."

"And pray, what hast thou in mind?" queried the damsel, interrupting.

"Well," the shepherd replied, "I was thinking of all the pleasures . . .

That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield."

"I see," observed the winsome one. "Sorry, I don't do 'craggy.' "

"No mountains, then," he quickly promised, "but . . .

There will we sit upon the rocks."

"What," she retorted, "dost thou mean by 'will we'? Art thou posing a question?"

"I mean," he corrected, "there we will sit . . .

And see the shepherds feed their flocks,"

"Oh, great," muttered the lady, "more 'passionate' shepherd boys. So, we'll all sit together on rocks with thy sheep-herding friends watching ruminants chew their regurgitated cuds."

"Uh . . . right," he conceded. But we'll also be there . . .

By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals."

"Shallow," she remarked, "isn't half of it. Songbirds competing with waterfalls for our attention. Sweaty shepherd lads telling rustic jokes. And thou art promising melodious madrigals? More like malodorous male oddballs"

"But," he protested . . .

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle."

"First," retorted the cool object of his fervor, "fix thy syntax. It's 'I will,' not 'will I.' Second, not even a myriad of posies would cover the stench of thee, thy unwashed shepherds, and thy odiferous sheep on those overgrazed hills. Third, I need no bed of thorny rose. And last, I have no lust for flower cap or floral gown."

"No flower-kirtle!" the herder cried. "It will be . . .

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull."

"Barbaric," she pronounced, "not to shear the wool but to pull it out by root!"

Desparately, the rustic tried, "Then, perhaps . . .

Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold."

"Fair linèd or fur linèd mean'st thou?" asked she. "And where comest thou by money for such buckles of gold?"

"Gold drawn from mountains' veins," he declaimed. "And I'll make thee . . .

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs"

"Gold buckles? Straw belt with ivy buds?" she high intoned. "Am I some dandified 'Harvest Queen'? All gussied up with amber -- and coral? High-altitude coral, I suppose?"

"I'll do it all," the young man swore, "everything I have proposed . . .

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."

"I see," she perceived, "that I'm not getting through to thee. I find here no pleasures 'me to move.' And 'love' rhymes not with 'move' -- nor with 'prove.' Art thou poetically challenged? As for silver dishes, intend'st thou to dig both gold and silver? Or behold, that ivory table. Might I surmise: from tusk of mastodon?"

"Oh, please," pleaded the desperate, would-be lover, "I vow that . . .

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."

"Swains singing?" the lady sighed. "Peasants' poems for turkey trots, no doubt. A life-long love, thine? Nay, merely a month of May. Ah, such 'delights' move me not. I shan't live with thee. Farewell. Oh, and get it straight: 'love' doesn't rhyme with 'move.'"


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