A grade essay on A Passionate Shepherd and The Nymph’s Reply

20 May 2010



Passionate shepherd…

Nymph’s reply…


-Direct language



-Imagery (remember caesura!)


In ‘The Passionate Shepherd’ a shepherd is pleading to a nymph (a beautiful woman) to go and live with him in the countryside. To persuade the nymph to go with him, Marlowe uses beautiful imagery of nature being harmonious and at one with humans; where it helps humans and where humans use it to their advantage. The natural beauty is intended to be a metaphor for love. YES YOU COULD ADDRESS THE QUESTION MORE IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. EG “Both these poems are about love, but take different views of this perennial theme…”

  ‘The Nymph’s Reply’ by contrast is the nymph rejecting this offer as being ridiculous and Ralegh uses imagery of nature dying to emphasise how love goes off. Ralegh also uses natural imagery, but only to show how love turns rotten.

  There is clearly a great difference in the imagery the two poems use. Marlowe uses beautiful imagery of nature in his poem such as “pretty lambs” and “purest gold”. This makes an impression on the reader as it makes the countryside sound thoroughly beautiful and remarkably pure. A LITTLE VAGUE, BE MORE PRECISE, TALK ABOUT HOW THE POEM IS A SEDUCTIVE AND PERSUASIVE PICTURE OF LOVE…I believe that Marlowe is using this image of beauty and purity to be a powerful metaphor for his love, to really persuade the nymph to be with him. Naturally, pure and beautiful love appeals to anyone, including the reader. Although, it should be noted that this poem was written pre-Industrial Revolution, when most of England was unspoiled and enjoyed a balmy climate, so the offer is probably more tempting to us in cities now as it is rarer than it was in Marlowe’s day. GOOD ON CONTEXT Yet, Marlowe further tantalises the senses by talking of “fragrant posies” and adds detail and depth to the atmosphere by using onomatopoeia of the “melodious birds” singing “madrigals” (beautiful songs). GOOD

 This further adds to the image of awe-inspiring beauty and by Marlowe building up the atmosphere, he immerses the reader in the beauty of nature, of the shepherd’s offer and ultimately of his love so the reader is really moved and the poem powerfully conveys a sense of delicate, pure and marvellous love. The offer of such beauty is persuasive and Marlowe uses caesura to emphasise his plea “Come live with me”. YES VERY GOOD.  By breaking up the rhythm of the poem and adding emphasis to his appeal, Marlowe makes it more heartfelt and profound, making it moving and powerful. The poem’s heartfelt nature of sheer desire is set in the word “passionate” in the title, suggesting that love is very emotional and personal.  IS IT PERSONAL??? I THINK NOT, IT FEELS QUITE GENERIC, THIS IS PARTLY THE CONTEXT, PARTLY THE SHEPHERD WHO SEEMS MORE INTERESTED IN THE NYMPH’S PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES THAN HER PERSONALITY…

  However, Ralegh uses THE SAME imagery very differently. RALEGH SATIRISES THE PASSIONATE SHEPHERD’S WORDS… He uses imagery of nature withering, dying and rotting to be his metaphor for love, in essence saying that it’s great at first, but after a while, it becomes horrible. “Flowers fade” is powerful imagery as the image of this beauty and hope (love at first, like in the Passionate Shepherd) turning into something withered and dead is horrible as it shows love not to be so good. To add to this, Ralegh uses juxtaposition to emphasise how love turns to rancour, for example in the line “A honey tongue, a heart of gall”. Again, the image of beauty and sweetness fading to poison is very powerful and shows why love is horrible. Ralegh dismisses love, making it seem ridiculous, again by using antithesis: “In folly ripe, in reason rotten”. This mocks the imagery of nature in ‘The Passionate Shepherd’, showing how it all turns bad eventually, just like love.

  The rhythm of Ralegh’s poem greatly emphasises this, as the rhyming couplets create a tumbling effect, which suggests that things are tumbling down or falling apart, like love does. The reason I interpret the rhythm this way is because of Ralegh’s language such as “if” and “but”. Such contrarian words which suggest problems start lines and set the scene for ridicule and problems. The personification of Time, by capitalising it, suggesting it’s an evil being that drives good things (in the poem “flocks”) away also adds to this, suggesting that love always turns sour. GOOD

  Marlowe uses the same rhyme scheme, but in the context of his beautiful, calm imagery of nature, it is more like a stream tumbling down a hill in a beautiful, peaceful way. The metre which is fairly regular (there are 7-9 syllables in each line) helps this and the rhythm adds power and resonance to the imagery of love being a beautiful thing.

  Lastly, the language of both poems is very direct. In Ralegh’s ‘Nymph’s Reply’, this direct language comes across as accusatory, like in a court house or at Prime Minister’s Question Time: it comes across as if saying ‘you promised me this” “your posies/other promises are rubbish”. The repetition of this in the lines: “Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses/ Thy cap, thy kirtle and thy posies” gives pace which adds a sense of fury and anger and accuses the shepherd’s love of being rubbish, very much sending out the message that love can never be beautiful, no matter what you promise. This is summed up in the last stanza that basically says if I trusted your promise and everything would turn out like you say, I’d live with you, but time spoils love, so I won’t. Ralegh is sending out the message that love can’t survive time.

  However, Marlowe’s use of personal language is more positive. Where it is in the “you” (second) person and is usually didactic, it is powerful and it implores the nymph to go with him. This presents love as a powerful brilliant force that can bring two people together.

  The main difference between the two poems is optimism. Marlowe gives an optimistic picture of love and Ralegh a dystopian one.   




YES. Now think more about the PURPOSES of the poems. Marlowe is aiming to seduce the nymph with his promise of a beautiful life with him, he employs SENSUOUS imagery to do this. Ralegh satirises the shepherd’s poem, by mocking his images, pointing out how shallow they are…A* answers will address this…

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