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The poem The Nymphs Reply to the Shepherd, is a look into the mind of a
realistic (or some may even say pessimistic) person. It was written as a
response to the more idealistic poem, The Passionate Shepherd to His
Love, by Christopher Marlowe. The Passionate Shepherd is the story
of a man trying to convince the lady he loves to spend the rest of her life with
him. He describes the happiness that will surround them and the beauty they will
live with the rest of their lives, The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning-. The theme of the poem is essentially to
woo the shepherds love to come live with him. Many responses were written to
this poem, but the most famous came from Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh wrote
The Nymphs Reply to the Shepherd. Sir Walter Raleigh actually became
famous for colonizing the Americas and for being the founder of a settlement in
Virginia. With this response to Marlowes poem he also became a poet. He wrote
the best response to Marlowes idealistic shepherd. In the first stanza the
nymph (otherwise known as the shepherds love) begins to state an argument
against the shepherds views. She says that if their love would always stay
young, and their world would never change then she would gladly spend the rest
of her life with him. After saying this, the nymph explains in detail what the
reality of things would be if they spent their lives together. The second stanza
begins by saying that in time the flocks of sheep would leave the field. The
rivers would grow to be more violent and smash against the rocks, instead of
flowing gently. The nightingale would stop singing, and soon after the
complaints in their relationship would start. Stanzas three through five
continue the nymphs description of what would really occur, if she lived with
him. Eventually, the flowers would wither away, and winter would come. The
springs honey tongue would appear, but it would only be followed by
fall (which they saw as sorrow-filled season). The gowns, shoes, skirts, and
everything else the shepherd said she would have also would fade and disappear
in time. Everything he offered her such as a belt made of straws and ivy buds,
coral clasps, and ivory studs, could not convince her to spend her life with
him. The point she tries to put across in these stanzas is everything she owned
and all that they were surrounded by would change. The Passionate
Shepherd only speaks of the wonderful things, and he only see the beauty
and life of spring. The nymph smartly reminds him that after a beautiful season
winter will eventually arrive. In the last stanza of the poem, the tone changes
a little. The nymph says how her opinion might change if things were different.

If their youth and their youthful stage of love could last forever, and it was
certain that their joy would never die; these offers would move her to changing
her mind. She basically states that she would spend the rest of her life with
him, if all that he said were true. In this last stanza, you see the nymph back
down from her argument a bit. She agrees that it would be nice for things to
stay the same, but they never do. This is what seems to be the theme of the
poem. Although she would love to live the way the shepherd says, she realizes
(and tries to make him realize through the poem) that things could never stay
that perfect. This argument is stated wonderfully through the imagery and
language used in the poem. In The Nymphs Reply the images used let
the reader almost see what this nymph is talking about. When rivers rage and
rocks grow cold, And Philomel becometh dumb; through this image the audience
can picture the cold water of the river crashing against the rocks, and the
nightingale stop singing. The flowers do fade, and wanton fields To wayward
winter reckoning yields; in these images the iciness of winter seems to be
killing everything off. Personification is also used to make the images clearer.

A honey tongue, a heart of gall, Is fancys spring, but sorrows
fall. This line personifies spring and fall by giving them human attributes
such as a tongue and a heart, as well as making them fancy and sorrowful. The
images in this poem are what make the poem great. They make the reader
understand the realist point of view of the nymph. This point of view also helps
to understand The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. The two are such
contrasts, yet they play off each other well. Therefore, it makes for a very
enjoyable reading experience for the audience.


English Essays

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