A Sacred Parody of the Passionate Shepherd: Melville and Marlowe

This week I learned about another 17th-century parody of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” written by the Scottish religious poet Elizabeth Melville (Lady Culross) entitled “A Call to Come to Christ.” Elizabeth Melville (c.1578-c.1640) was a Scottish presbyterian devotional poet. She is celebrated as the first Scottish woman to have her poetry appear in print, and is the author of a significant body of poetry in manuscript. You can read more about her life here, Elizabeth Melville Biography.

You can look at the facsimile images and read the transcriptions of “A Call to Come to Christ” on the Early Modern Women’s Research Network (EMWRN). The EMWRN is an Australian-based network of scholars which aims to bring the often institutionally-isolated scholars of early modern women’s writing into dialogue with others in the field, both within Australia and internationally. The Material Cultures of Early Modern Women’s Writing Digital Archive presents online editions of women’s writing that circulated in a variety of forms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This Digital Archive is fabulous because most of the texts presented were not printed in actual editions. Thanks to the EMWRN, they are available!


“A Call to Call to Come to Christ” from the Reinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Boswell Collection, Gen MSS 89, Series XV, Box 105, Folder 1925, item 5.

I am enormously grateful to Dr Sarah Ross, Senior Lecturer of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, for contacting me and informing me about this wonderful 17th-century parody. You can read all about Elizabeth Melville’s poetry in Dr Sarah Ross’ Women, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Britain (2015). 

A New Look at Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

Christopher Marlowe’s ballad “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is probably one of the most well-known poems or, as Mallory Ortberg calls it, “The Most Frequently Owned-Upon Poem In History.” In class we learn about Marlowe’s pastoral love poem but we barely scratch the surface of the complicated and fascinating history surrounding this poem. From directly after its first printing to modern-day, the poem has inspired responses in all genres of literature, art, and music. Its manifestations include a broadside ballad, newspaper comics, jazz songs, poetic parodies and replies, as well as paintings and textile works of art. I have found that there is no one place where this information has been cultivated.

Come Live With Me homepageTo fill this gap, I have created Come Live With Me: Living the History of a Ballad. The site is now live and available for free to anyone who wants to know more about the literary life of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” Continue reading