THE NYMPH’S REPLY TO THE SHEPHERD- SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Sir Walter Raleigh was a poet, a historian, a sailor, an explorer and a settler. He was born in 1552 (or 1554) and died in 29 October 1618. He was a typical Renaissance man during his life time and was a popular member in the Queen’s Court. He was then considered disloyal based on his action of secret marriage with his second wife, who was one of the maids of the Queen Elizabeth. He was imprisoned yet, he convinced the Queen to release him and let him explore the New World through Voyage, with which he found El Dorado before the Spanish, who were also in an expedition. His works include, The Historie of the World In five bookes, The Discovery of Guiana and a lot of poems in which many were unfinished. His poems were mostly short and were influenced by real incidents. He was considered as one of the Elizabethan era’s “Silver Poets” by C. S. Lewis. His writing style was plain, straightforward and were not ornamental. He resisted Italian Renaissance. His works mostly contained the themes such as love, loss, beauty and time (Universal).
The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd (1600) sometimes called ‘Her Reply’ is a poem written in response (parodies) to “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (1599) written by Christopher Marlowe. In The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, he calls nymph to ‘come live with me, and be my love’. He was bewitching her with seductive lyrics by portraying their future life with full of intense sensual pleasure. But in this poem, as a reply to his call, the nymph rejects the courtship of shepherd’s idylls life. Let’s see the pessimistic reality of nymph’s thought to optimistic dreamy shepherd’s proposal.
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 complains 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.
As a reply to Shepherd’s proposal, the nymph says that if all the words from shepherd’s tongue is true and the worldly love remains young, may be it will convince her to be his love and to live with him. But time changes everything. It drives flocks from field to their shelter, river turns as violent and rocks turns glacial(unfriendly) to take a seat together. Even Philomel (is a poetic nightingale) becomes voiceless; after all this the rest beings express grief and worries for the upcoming winter. The spring flowers lose its freshness and die; lustful fields become dry and shriveled. His sweet tempting words and bold heart may fantasize spring but distress the autumn (fall). All those gowns, shoes, beds of Roses, cap, kirtle and bouquet that shepherd promised her, will soon break, fade, weaken and shortly unremembered. All these facts will last for only a limited period of time and everything happens opposite to what is desired or expected in reality.
This lack of foresight in him, forgets the end of the spring season (time). All his presentations like belt inter-wined by straw and ivy buds, buckle made of coral and stud made of amber will never strike a chord in her “To come to thee and be thy love”. The nymph rejects his proposal by saying neither his nor her world will remain the same for eternal.
But, in the last stanza, as a hope to his proposal, she says that, if youth would last and love still grows; happiness stays forever and as they are immortal beings, then all his words will delight her. Then she will accept his proposal to live with him and be his love for the rest of their life “then these delights my mind might move; To live with thee, and be thy love”.