Comparing the Idealistic and Realistic: "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"

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Comparing the Idealistic and Realistic: "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is a pastoral poem written by Christopher Marlowe in the late sixteenth century. According to Dr. Debora B. Schwartz, Pastoral is a term that comes from the Latin word for shepherd: pastor. The pastoral poem is one that deals with shepherds and rustic life (Schwartz). This poem was set in a shepherd's field or dwelling. The only information that we have about the speaker is that he is a shepherd and thinks romantically and idealistically. Marlowe does not focus much on the setting or character, but more on the argument that the shepherd is trying to make to the girl. The prominent theme of this poem is of idealistic love and pleasure. Carpe diem was a popular subject in poems of this era, and this also shows as a theme. The speaker urges his love to live with him and enjoy the pleasures of the day. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote a response to this poem in 1600 called "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." He uses the young girl as the speaker, responding to the shepherd. There are no clues to the setting or the girl's physical appearance. The themes of this poem are doubt and the point that time changes things. The young girl thinks realistically and refutes the ideas of the idyllic world the young man had proposed to her. The shepherd seems to be very much of an optimist, whereas the young girl is a pessimist. The structure of these two poems is exact. There are six stanzas consisting of four lines each. This shows that "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" is responding directly to the shepherd in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." In each ideal proposal he gives, she gives him the realistic answer to why they cannot be together. The speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is a young shepherd who proposes a passionate love affair to the girl he desires. He uses nature largely to appeal to her senses. He tells her they will sit and watch the other shepherds work and listen to the birds sing. This implies that they will have a life of pleasure and relaxation. He says he will make beds of roses and give her fragrant posies. He promises to outfit her in fine clothes and that she will not want for anything. He uses all these tempting things to help his argument, but he does not make any mention of true love or marriage. It seems he only wants a passionate physical relationship. The pleasures and delights he speaks of are only temporary. His concept of time is only in the present, and he does not seem to think much about the future. In "the Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd," the young girl is responding to the shepherd's plea. She thinks about life in a practical way, so the shepherd's words have no bearing on her decision. She rebuts his argument and says that if time had no end and every man told the truth, that the pleasures he had promised would convince her to be his lover. The theme of carpe diem is usually that one should "seize the day". However, the girl turns it around and says that because life is short, we should not seize the day. The serious decisions of life such as this one should not be taken lightly and acted upon irrationally. She states that flowers wither and die, and all the material possessions he offered would eventually break and be forgotten. She realizes that something substantial such as true love, is the only thing that will outlast the material items. In her mind, it is worth waiting for true love. Nothing he had to give can convince her, because she knows that he is only thinking about the present time and has no future plans for them. At the end of the poem, she reiterates the point she had made at the beginning: But could youth last and love still breed

Had joys no date or age no need
The these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love (Raleigh 21-24).
The use of imagery in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is the...
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