Thomas Campion and Christopher Marlowe have explored the concept of ‘the ideal’ in ‘A Man of Life Upright’ and ‘Come Live with me, and be my Love,’ respectively. Campion delves into the idea that a man may be more content in life by upholding strong morality. In ‘Come Live with me, and be my Love,’ Marlowe poses a contradictory view, expressing the notion that ‘the ideal’ may be achieved through the acquisition and appreciation of material wealth. Despite their contrasting views, both poems discuss the similar idea that striving towards contentment is the greatest way a person can spend life, and that ‘the ideal’ is the fundamental human purpose.
It is a common misconception that by achieving wealth and physical success, one will become content and be able to live a satisfied life. Thomas Campion’s ‘A Man of Life Upright’ disputes this idea. His poem portrays the concept that ‘the ideal’ life is achieved not through material possessions but through strong morals. The use of connotation expresses this sentiment: “Whose guiltless heart is free” conveys the peace that upholding sound values will bring to one’s life, while “dishonest deeds” has a heavy, negative connotation that helps to express the burden impurity can have. ‘A Man of Life Upright’ approaches the concept of ‘the ideal’ by viewing it as a state of being. Through emotive language that almost shows an element of superiority, “Thus scorning all the cares,” the idea comes across that human purity is obtained only by perfecting yourself as a person, in order to the so called ‘moral high ground.’ This setup reflects Campion’s notion that the contentment of someone’s life needn’t depend on the world in which that person lives, but rather on the person himself or herself: “That man needs neither towers nor armour.” It then follows that, in this perception of ‘the ideal,’ satisfaction cannot be achieved by collecting things, but earned by idealizing one’s own values.
Christopher Marlowe portrays a concept that differs greatly from the one in ‘A Man of Life Upright.’ His poem, ‘Come Live with me, and be my Love,’ articulates the view that the acquisition and appreciation of tangible assets will satisfy one’s longing for ‘the ideal.’ Within his poem, Marlowe attempts to entice a woman by offering her his idea of the best life possible; one filled with “gowns,” “slippers,” and “buckles”. He has used listing to create a cumulative effect as the poem progresses, evoking “valleys, groves, hills and fields.” Through this tactic, Marlowe has maintained that the lists upon lists of things that he is promising his loved one will make that them both eternally happy. “And we will all the pleasures prove” is a clear example of this sentiment. “Pleasures” refers to the satisfaction found once ‘the ideal’ has been discovered. “Prove” shows that Marlowe believes that these pleasures are palpable, physically possessions. From his point of view, ‘the ideal’ does not come from a person, but from the circumstances people find themselves in. Many people believe that wealth will bring them happiness. Marlowe does not dispute this belief, but adds that only through the appreciation of one’s good fortunes will one truly be content.
While the contrast between the perceptions of these two poets is clear, they have also have a distinct parallel. Campion and Marlowe would not disagree that a life spent endeavouring to attain ‘the ideal’ is a successful and fulfilling one. The definition of exactly what the elusive ‘ideal’ constitutes the point where their attitudes vary. Both poets seem to discredit the common societal behaviour of endless consumption, and focus instead on simple pleasures. To Marlowe, these pleasures manifest in the form of practical gifts, and the gratitude towards them. Campion’s pleasures are not realised in a physical sense, they are instead symbols for the supposedly more important goal of maintaining moral integrity. Both poems, however, share the notion that in aspiring to this idyllic life we give our lives some meaning and purpose. Consequently, the acquisition of ‘the ideal’ will bring us peace and prosperity.
What we are left with is two contrasting views on what ‘the ideal’ is. Where ‘A Man of Life Upright’ scorns the dependence of happiness on material possessions, ‘Come Live with me, and be my Love’ advertises their benefit. Thomas Campion suggests to readers that morality is a necessity for living a contented life regardless of wealth or circumstance, while Christopher Marlowe asserts that appreciated belongings can lead to satisfaction. Whichever perspective readers choose to agree with, we are left with a clear understanding that ‘the ideal’ is a worthwhile pursuit, as it will lead to a fulfilled life.