1. Literary context: other text by a different writer: Sir Walter Raleigh's poem "The Nymph's Reply"
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was a soldier, explorer and colonizer, but also a courtier, philosopher, poet and historian. He became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1580s, and he was one of the most politically powerful men at her court. He was executed in 1618 by King James I, Elizabeth’s successor, on charges of treason. Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” is Raleigh’s response to Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”. The date of the poem is unknown but it is thought to be about 1592.
- Read Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” and compare the woman’s reply and your own replies to the shepherd.
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee, and be thy love.
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complain of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten –
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
The coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.
But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.
’Philomel gammel poetisk betegnelse for en nattergal
yield vige for
gall egl. galde; (her) bitterhed, vrede
fancy indbildning, fantasi
no means på ingen måde
breed formere sig, gro, trives
In the nymph’s reply you will find the following line “In folly ripe, in reason rotten”. What does that tell you about the reasons for the nymph’s reaction to the shepherd’s invitation? Be as precise as you can.
Comprehension, analysis and interpretation
1. In groups: Translate the poem and then take turns to read a stanza each and to rephrase the
2. Which two lines did you particularly like/ not like? Why? Learn the two lines by heart.
3. Stanza 1: Why hasn’t the nymph been persuaded to come and live with the shepherd and be his
4. Is stanza 2 a direct reply to Marlowe’s stanza 2?
5. How does the nymph follow up her verbal attack in the rest of the poem?
6. What aspects of nature does the nymph focus on?
7. The last line in stanza 5 is almost a repetition of the last line in stanza 1. Why doesn’t the author
end the poem after the fifth stanza?
8. Comment on the number of examples of alliteration in each stanza. What is the function of
alliteration in this poem?
9. Stanza 1 and the rest of the poem: What is the tone? Does it change?
10. Stanza 2-5: Is there an implied ‘but’ at the start of each stanza? Why/why not?
11. Characterize the tone: ironic joyful longing mocking optimistic pessimistic polite sarcastic
sincere skeptical teasing witty
12. What is the theme of the poem?
13. Is this a carpe diem poem? Why/ why not?
14. Is the poem a parody of Marlowe’s poem? Look for example at direct references to Marlowe’s
poem, meter, rhyme, structure, length, the use of alliteration and the choice of words.
No study aids
1. What does carpe diem mean?___________________________________________________________
2. The nymph’s reply is an answer to a poem called ________________________________________ by
3. The poem is a parody of that poem because ____________________________________________________________________________________
4. Write down one of the two lines you learned by heart____________________________________________________________________
5. The nymph’s reply was written by _______________________________________________ in about