The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

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"The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" (1596), by Walter Raleigh, is a poem that responds to and parodies the poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (1593) by Christopher Marlowe. In her reply to the shepherd's invitation, the nymph presents her rejection of the shepherd's courtship for a life of pastoral idyll.

Both poems are written in the style of traditional pastoral poetry and follow the structure of six four-line stanzas employing a rhyme scheme of AABB, with Raleigh's an almost line-for-line refutation of Marlowe's sentiments.[1]

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd[edit]

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,
Thy 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.


The 20th century poet William Carlos Williams joined the poetic "argument" with his poem "Raleigh was Right".


  1. ^ "Notes for The Passionate Shepherd to His Love". Dr. Bruce Magee, Louisiana Tech University. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 

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