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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 981 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Love is not quick

Is ones’ eager love and admiration enough to last forever? So Marlowe’s Passionate Shepherd To His Love would think so. On the other hand, Raleigh’s Nymph Reply To The Shepherd would confidently disagree, as she does not believes his hasty words. Marlowe writes a naive, rash, and rather bold poem which attempts to confess his feelings and paints a picture of what love could be. He fills the canvas with dream like scenery and promising words of materialistic items to win ones affection. Raleigh’s response in Nymph prompts the reader to see reasoning and a sense of reality that contrasts with Marlowe’s words of the Shepherd.

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In Passionate Shepherd To His Love, Marlowe’s style for the poem is pastoral. He seems to glorify the simplicity of life and idealize a perfect world by utilizing nature to create his utopian scene. In the lines “And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,”(Marlowe 777) he portrays an innocent notion of affection by simply admiring other shepherds feeding sheep alongside his love. The author’s soft-spoken line,”By shallow rivers, to whose falls Melodious birds sing madrigals,”(Marlowe 777) illustrates spending time by the river with waterfalls as birds sing melodies. These are one of many naive illusions the shepherd attempts to charm his love with.

Marlowe’s shepherd is filled with nothing but eager promises that are not realistic. The shepherd seeks love, yet is first confined to proving his worth. In beginning, Marlow speaks of practical promises such as, “A cap of flowers and kirtle Embroidered all with leave of myrtle; A gown made of the finest wool Which from our pretty lambs we pull” (Marlowe 777). The pastoral style and the earthy feeling of nature are still visible when he speaks of flowers being made caps and skirts made of leaves. His practical promises quickly shift into unattainable ones as he begins to sound desperate as he states, “A belt of straw and ivy buds, With Coral clasp and amber studs” (Marlowe 777) The work of a shepherd cannot gather such raw items, as they are both too costly for him and also rare in the countryside. The poem is filled with open-ended promises where, in a perfect world, it would be enough to win the affection someone’s love.

In the Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, Raleigh is straightforward when addressing the shepherd. He uses the words and stanzas in a ruthless way, utilizing them in such a manner of deliberation and precision, that it sets the tone of a distinct response to Marlowe. The feminine persona of the nymph sets up hypothetical questions that disregard mans’ impulses of transitory promises.

Raleigh begins by speaking of a naive world with a skeptical shepherd and his kind gestures that may win the affection of the nymph. Similar to Marlowe, who incorporates nature in his writing, Raleigh exploits the idea of the outdoors by expressing flawless responses. In the first example, “Time drives the flocks from field to fold, When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold”(Raleigh 782). Raleigh puts an end to the simple gazing of flocking sheep, as its time for them to be put away, and the rocks growing cold insist a change in weather. In line 6, the stressed emphasis of R and its’ combined clashing sound supports the harsh distinction of Raleigh’s nature. Rather than Marlowe’s safe and consistent shallow stream, Raleigh illustrates a raging river that can be dangerous and destructive. The overall idea expressed in line 5 and 6 is that small moments don’t last forever and making quick-hearted decisions will eventually lead to a negative outcome.

As both authors integrate nature in their pieces, the differences in season describe a general feeling to each poem. Marlowe speaks of beautiful valleys, hills, groves, beds of roses, and alluring mountainsides, therefore the reader can assume the season as spring. Raleigh, however, expresses practicality, using winter to illustrate that, just as spring, love is not always everlasting.  He depicts this in Lines 9 and 10, “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields, To wayward winter reckoning yields”(Raliegh 782).

The over all message that Raleigh is trying to convey can be expressed with in two lines, “A honey tongue, a heart of gall, Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall,”(782) he stating that if someone’s only chooses to see the short pleasure of love, over a long-term commitment, it will only lead in unhappiness.

Marlowe’s theme suggests carpe diem, or to seize the day, as Raleigh exercises both carpe diem and tempus fugit, to seize the time. A better explanation of this is better expressed by Dr. Bruce Magee who explains that, “Normally we should seize the day because time flies. Raleigh argues that because time flies, we should NOT seize the day.”(Magee) This is a concurring statement because instead of making impulsive decisions in life, one should wait to evaluate possible outcomes before determining a significant choice. As Shakespeare once said, “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast” (Shakespeare 4).

Work Cited

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. Portable literature: reading, reacting, writing. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.

Magee, Bruce. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (and the Nymph’s Reply).” The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (and the Nymph’s Reply). Louisiana Tech University, 08 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Wiegle, Matt, and William Shakespeare. No fear Shakespeare. New York: Sparknotes, 2008. Print.


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