THE PASSIONATE SHEPHERD & THE NYMPH'S REPLY
The Passionate Shepherd to his Love
by Christopher Marlowe
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.
The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd
BY SIR WALTER RALEIGH
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.
How would you characterize the life described by Marlowe’s shepherd?
The life described by the passionate shepherd is an extremely idealistic one, in terms of both nature and his own ideals. It seems that the flowers are always blooming, everything is always green, the birds are always singing, and there are really no hardships in his life, or at least the life he is proposing. All the shepherd’s needs and whims would be met by nature as well as the nymph, so it really is the perfect life for him. There is a caveat however: the intentions and trustworthiness of the speaker could completely change the way this poem can be interpreted. Perhaps the speaker wishes to lure this nymph with false hopes and promises; after all, he does seem a little forward and perhaps even a little demanding when he says “come live with me and be my love,” not only once, but three times. He could also be poking fun at the romantic ideals that people think living solely in nature brings. Living solely off the land is often romanticized and made to feel as if it is always sunny when clearly that is not the case. It’s possible that Marlowe could be poking fun at that sentiment. Whether he is poking fun, trying to lure the nymph to him, or simply being extremely romantic, the life the shepherd wants to lead seems like the perfect one, at least for him. We have no idea if the nymph would like that lifestyle, but it sounds like it would be rather boring and isolated for a woman to live among shepherds.
How does the nymph’s attitude in Raleigh’s poem contrast with the shepherd’s?
The retort from the nymph clearly shows that she is much more realistic, and she has experience with how the world works. It might sound a little bit depressing, but there is truth in the nymph’s version. The shepherd’s poem is filled with innocence. He only considers the good things, and either does not know, or does not care about what happens when the weather turns bad. The nymph on the other hand seems older and wiser, and knows that the things the shepherd speaks of are temporal. When the season does eventually change, the things that were made for her: the bed of roses, the belt of straw and ivy buds, the gown and shoes, will all wilt away and become useless. She wants something of more substance, not just whimsical dreams and imagination. She is not going to sacrifice her long term aspirations for a short-lived happiness. After all, she doesn’t know if the shepherd will grow cold as well when the weather does. I think the woman is right not to believe the shepherd and reject the life he is offering because that sounds like a rather boring existence for her, living life among shepherds.
Can the two differing attitudes be reconciled? Explain.
Attitudes can always change over time, so it’s definitely possible that the two polar opposites could be reconciled at some point if not immediately. After all, the nymph even says that, if there were no such things as age, date, need and time then it’s possible that she might consider moving down with the shepherd. Perhaps she had the same attitude as the shepherd when she was younger, and it changed over time with the experiences she gained. Perhaps the shepherd’s views will change when he experiences some hardships. It is obvious that they do have a couple things in common even though it does not seem like it. The nymph does think the things the Shepard speaks of are pretty though fleeting; they also both have listened to nightingales sing it seems, so there is hope that the attitudes could be reconciled at some point. Perhaps if the shepherd could give the nymph some guarantees that he could care for her and provide for her even when life gets difficult, then she might consider his proposal.