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Literature Paper Assignment


Compare and contrast Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Ralegh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”


     The poems “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Ralegh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” are discussed more for their content and the questions and answers that are given than anything else. Raleigh’s answer is a very befitting reply to the poem by Marlowe. Marlowe’s poem was published in 1599, six years afetr his death. This poem is known as one of the most beloved poems in the English language, and this poem is considered to be one of the earliest styles of pastoral poetry in the later part of the Renaissance period. The poem is composed in iambic tetrameter, with seven stanzas composed of two rhyming couplets, and the poem is quite popular for its use of meter and rhythm in its content.


     The reply to his poem was given by Sir Walter Raleigh, who composed “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” The whole interplay between the poems is a reflection of the relationship that the two had between them. Marlowe was a young poet whose work was romantic. He idealized the love object of the Nymph. Raleigh was a courtier, and he was also an accomplished poet. His style of writing is a more jaded one, and while giving his reply it seems clear that he is in a way rebuking Marlowe for being naïve and sort of juvenile while writing. Both the poems are quite similar, and yet vary from each other in so many different ways. They have a unique writing style, and portray a myriad of opinions and perspectives on love.


I.          Pastoral Poetry/ Literature


During the Elizabethan period, poetry held an integral part in the life of Elizabeth. Both these poems are perfect examples of pastoral poetry. Pastoral poetry is a form of writing that deals with the subject of shepherds. This is evident from the following lines in the poems.


Come live with me, and be my love;

And we will all the pleasures prove

That hills and valleys, dales and fields,

Woody or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,

Seeing their shepherds feed their flocks. (Marlowe)


“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.” (Raleigh)


Pastoral Poetry is characterized more by the setting and subject of the poem, and it focusses on rural life. Such poems are very good at glorifying the life of small towns. Pastoral literary style presents a more conventionalized picture of rural life, which is more natural and innocent as compared with corruption and the artificial life in the city.


II.         Writing Styles

The other common element in both the poems is their style of writing. The writing styles used in the two poems are like mirror images of each other. Both the poems are examples of iambic tetrameter poems. The Passionate Shepherd to His Love is a love poem, which contains six quatrains of rhyming couplets in iambic tetrameter. In structure and rhyming style this poem is an exact mimicry of Marlowe’s poem. It is similar in the sense that it consists of six- four line stanzas, or quatrains along with each stanza, which is a fusion of two rhymed couplets. Similar to Marlowe’s poem the most dominating meter in the Nymph is also the iambic tetrameter. Iambic tetrameter means that each of the line contains four iambs or two syllable units of rhythm in which the first syllable is an unstressed syllable and the second syllable is stressed. For example:


“If all the world and love were young” where we can divide the iambs from one another like this,

If all/ the world/ and love/ were young.


“and we will all the pleasures prove”

And/ we will/ all the/ pleasures/prove.


The poems have similar structure as well as each poem contains six stanzas that have four lines. By using such a structure the poems show the deep longing of the poets or the shepherd as refers repetitively to the person whom he loves. So also in the response given by Nymph, her repetitive rejection is also very strongly emphasized in each of the stanzas. With such a writing structure the poems have become very easy to flow which enables the visual imagery of the poets.


III.       Imagery

Imagery is one common aspect in both the poems as they both depend quite heavily on imagery to make the text easy for the reader to comprehend. There is the use of very strong imagery in the two poems throughout as is evident from the following lines,” that hills and valleys, dales 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 so in in Nymph’s poems,” But time drives flocks from field to fold, when rivers rage and rocks grow cold, and Philomel becomes dumb; the rest complain of cares to come.”

     The poems have predominant nature imagery in both of them. In the Nymph’s reply nature and the natural imagery is presented as being in constant decay and also moving closer towards death. There is absolutely no mention of rejuvenation of new life as there is only rot and withering in the poem. Raleigh has been presented as something quite harsh and dangerous and we cannot fault him for having presented such a portrayal. So also is the case of Marlowe’s poem where with pastoral imagery there is bound to be natural imagery in the mix. The poem talks about frolicking lambs, bubbling brooks, and cows that do not poop ever. Everything is gorgeous and beautiful. For him nature is meant to be seductive.



IV.       Imagery

Imagery is both a common and a distinctive feature in the two poems. The only similarity that the two poems have is that they have used imagery in their poems as a means of expressing their thoughts and opinions but what sets the two apart is the manner in which they have used imagery. Marlowe has used very beautiful imagery in the poem with the use of words like,” pretty lambs” and “purest gold”. This gives the impression to the reader that the countryside is beautiful and very pure. Marlowe has used imagery as a very powerful metaphor to portray his power of love. It is this powerful and natural love that appeals to the reader the first and foremost. Marlowe with his use of imagery has very powerfully engaged into the beauty of the reader. The beauty that he offers in his poem is simply persuasive and believable. He has used words like,” Come live with me”. He also has on several occasions broken the whole rhythm of the poem and also added a lot of emphasis to his appeal.

     On the contrary Raleigh has used the very same imagery in a very different manner. He has satirized the words spoken by Marlowe. In complete contrast he has used the imagery of dying and rooting, of nature withering, rotting and dying to be his metaphor of love which in essence looks great in the beginning but gets worse later on. He uses the words ,” Flower fade” which is powerful imagery as the image of the beauty has turned into something dead and withered because it shows that love is no good at all. Adding on to this Raleigh has used a lot of juxtaposition to show how love has turned to rancor like in the line,

     “A honey tongue, a heart of gall”.

This image of sweetness and beauty fading on to poison is also very powerful and it shows why love is so horrible. Raliegh has completely dismissed love and has made it seem to be ridiculous by using several antithesis in the poem with words like,

““In folly ripe, in reason rotten”.

    These words are a complete mockery of the imagery in “The Passionate Shepherd” so this is the first major difference between the two poems.

V.        Content and Themes

The most predominant theme in the “The passionate” is one of love and it fits perfectly into the whole poetic genre that was predominant in the period. The speaker in the poem is a shepherd who says that he is ready to do anything if the woman that he loves will accept all his requests and pleas. The poem seems to be static in time that has no history behind nor is there any future in it too. It is only the present situation that matters to them. The poem is full of emotions as with the use of words like “passionate” it seems very evident that there are emotions and feelings quite heavily used in the poem. The shepherd is making so many promises to his lady love which are improbable and impossible to get. However we never get to see or hear the response of the women. She remains in the background. His poem is more a traditional love poem similar to the likes of poems of poet’s like Henry Howard and Sir Thomas Wyatt who also wrote traditional poems that are characteristic of the rejected suitor who finds solace in the calm and serene atmosphere of the life in the countryside.  It is completely characteristic of the poetry in the English Renaissance period which was more concerned with romantic love.


      Raliegh on the contrary has spoken about how it is not the society that taints about sexual love as we are already tainted before we can enter the society. Raleigh has combined carpe diem with tempus fugit in a rather unusual manner. She has completely reversed the images of the following into hard and negative ones,

a.         Fields yielding to the harvest.

b.         Rivers raging

c.         Rocks growing cold

d.         Birds complaining of winter

e.         The flocks are driven to the cold in winter

His poem is a static reply to the poem by Marlowe. What is ironical is the fact that there is a mythological spirit that is depicted as a maiden and it is more of a realistic than it is a shepherd. Nymph has found the shepherd to be completely unrealistic and this is indicated at the beginning of the line that has begun with an “If”. He has used some anti-pastoral themes in the poem where time against the youth where the verse has moved quickly via the rhyming couplets and alliteration. There is also a repetition of consonant sounds like in the following examples:

     “These pretty pleasures might me move

     To live with thee and be thy love.

     Time drives the flocks from field to fold

    Where rivers rage and rocks grow cold...

    The rest complains of cares to come.”

Raleigh has also used personification unlike Marlowe when he says,

“The flowers do fade, and wanton fields

To wayward winter reckoning yields.”

The fields and winter have been written in such a manner that makes them sound similar to something with human characteristics.


     The poems by Marlowe and Raleigh are symbolic of the poetry from the Elizabethan age where romance ruled and authors and poets used their talent to win over hearts. One of the two poems came out first and the second one was the response to the first poem or an answer to the interplay. Both the poems have a lot of similarities between them with their pastoral themes, writing styles and the use of imagery in them. There is heavy use of pastoral poetry or literature in the poem. They both have shepherds, fields and mountains in them representing the countryside. The writing styles are also quite similar with the poets using iambic tetrameters to express their love and affection and importantly thoughts. The structure of the poems is also quite similar to one another. The third common element in the two poems is of imagery. They both have relied quite heavily on imagery to release their emotions and feelings.   However as there are similarities so also are there are differences in the two poems. Imagery is used but imagery is used in completely different contexts by the two poets. What they have tried to explain through or present forth is also very different from each other. There is a big difference in their whole outlook and perspective towards love and expression of love. The second difference between the poems is the content of the two poems. They are very different from each other in the themes that they portray and present.











Works Cited Page

Williams, Carlos William. “Raleigh Was Right”. Collected Poems 1939-1962 . New York: New Directions. Retrieved 28th September, 2015

Sauer Michelle.  The Facts on File Companion to British Poetry Before 1600. Infobase Publishing: New York. 2008. Print

Marlowe Christopher. Delphi Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe. (2013). Web, Retrieved from,

Raleigh Walter. The Nymph’s reply to the Shepherd. (2015). Web, Retrieved from,

Walter Raleigh. The Nymph’s Reply to the Shephard. (n.d.). Web, Retrieved from,










Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 10/02/2015 12:00 am
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