Introduction & Overview of The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd by Walter Raleigh (professor)

Walter Raleigh (professor)
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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd Summary & Study Guide Description

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"The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" is Sir Walter Raleigh's response to a poem written by Christopher Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." In the Marlowe poem, the shepherd proposes to his beloved by portraying their ideal future together: a life filled with earthly pleasures in a world of eternal spring. Raleigh's reply, however, debunks the shepherd's fanciful vision. While Marlowe's speaker promises nature's beauty and a litany of gifts, Raleigh's nymph responds that such promises could only remain valid "if all the world and love were young." Thus, she introduces the concepts of time and change. In her world, the seasons cause the shepherd's "shallow rivers" to "rage," rocks to "grow cold" and roses to "fade." The shepherd's gifts might be desirable, but they too are transient: they "soon break, soon wither" and are "soon forgotten." In the end, the nymph acknowledges that she would accept the shepherd's offer "could youth last" and "had joys no date." Like the shepherd, she longs for such things to be true, but like Raleigh, she is a skeptic, retaining faith only in reason's power to discount the "folly" of "fancy's spring."

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This section contains 191 words
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Poetry for Students
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.