“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”

Pastoral poetry is defined as poetry professing to portray the innocence of shepherd life, according to a specific literary convention. They range from love lyrics to lengthy dramatic works and elaborate elegies. Christopher Marlowe is considered to be the first great English dramatist before Shakespeare. He wrote the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” in which the character expresses his true affection through his loving words, actions he will take, and complete dedication. Sir Walter Raleigh was a good friend of Marlowe and he wrote a response to his poem entitled “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”.

Raleigh, like Marlowe, used strong words to portray the Nymph’s affection, or actually lack there of, to the shepherd.

There are many similarities of the two poems. Each poem has six stanzas that have four lines each. The use of the four-line stanza directly illustrates the deep desire of the shepherd to his love by repetitiously calling to the one he loves.

As in the Nymph’s reply her continual denial to the shepherd is continually and strongly stressed in each of the six stanzas.

The form also allows the poem to flow freely without any interruption. Having no interruption enables, one who reads these poems, to see a visual image and to hear the desperation of both the characters trying desperately to get their point across. When a poem is able to flow freely one can also be able to understand the poem better and take in a deeper meaning of the poem unlike a poem all jumbled up and confusing.

There also are some differences in the two poems. The first difference is what the character is trying to get across to the reader. In “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” the shepherd is able, and willing, to provide anything and everything no matter what the cost to his love. As we see in the Nymph’s reply, she obviously has a grip on reality and knows that the shepherd’s promises can not possibly come true. Flowers will die. Rivers will rage. Winter dose come. She also says, “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.”

Another difference that I noticed is, in the “Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” Marlowe reflects on the positive outlook towards his potential relationship while Raleigh reflected on a more negative tone in the “Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” Marlowe refers to the positive beginnings that spring brings with it as Raleigh reflected on the negative endings; cold and harsh like the winter wind.

As one can see there are several similarities and differences in the two poems. In conclusion Raleigh and Marlowe were both very talented writers of the Early Renaissance period and laid a foundation for Shakespeare even though they were not as well known as he was and still is today.