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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

This study guide will help you analyse the poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” (1600) by Sir Walter Raleigh. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it. 

The poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” is intended as an answer to, as well as a parody of the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe, which is a typical pastoral idyll.

Extract

Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

Rhythm and rhyme

The poem rhymes in couplets, which means that the verses rhyme two by two:

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. (ll. 21-24)

We can notice that the last rhyming pattern, of “move” with “love” is imperfect. This can have several meanings. In the context of the poem, it is meant to draw attention to the fact that the relationship the shepherd proposes as ideal, is in fact, imperfect. 

In a wider context, this is also a criticism of the writing style of the original poem, where that particular rhyme is used twice. Therefore, the original poem is not only criticized in terms of content, by mocking the shepherd’s naive beliefs about love, but its poetic value is also questioned.

The rhythm of the poem is iambic tetrameter, with the stress on the second syllable in the verse: “If all the world and love were young” (l. 1). The iambic tetrameter is a natural rhythm, easy to read out loud, which therefore makes it easier to express emotions and ideas. It also has a pleasant, uplifting effect, which is in contrast with the ideas presented in the poem.

 

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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

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