Pastoral poetry is a type of poetry, which refers to the lives of shepherds. It portrays a comparison between the simplicity or innocence of rural life and the artificiality of lives in cities and towns. Such pieces of writing appeared in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe and “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” by Sir Walter Ralegh are samples of such poetry. Both poems are uniform and diverse in several ways. Marlowe and Ralegh wrote their masterpieces with an invariable writing style. However, they proposed different opinions on love. An analysis of two poems shows that “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd” are similar in their structure and different in the tone of authors, main theme outlined by both speakers, as well as the nature of works.
Marlowe, who is known as the first English dramatist before Shakespeare, offers a poem in which a hero conveys his affection through loving words, planned actions, as well as future dedication. Ralegh as a friend of Marlowe responds to his poem by using strong words to illustrate the lack of nymph’s attraction to a shepherd. In fact, “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd” serves as a humorous parody to “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” as it questions the truth of the original poem. The point of such alternation is to portray the meaning of reality and time passing. Anyway, the works of Marlowe and Ralegh share a number of features. First, they are companion poems as they illustrate the same experience and use the same form of writing. Both poems directly follow one another and refer to the same subjects. They are similar as the reply serves as a mirror of the proposal poem.
Second, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd” follow the same structure. Each piece of poetry contains six stanzas with four lines. The practice of four-line stanzas helps Marlowe portray the desire of shepherd to attract his beloved by repeatedly addressing her. It should be mentioned that both poems with four measures per line have also two syllables in each measure. They help the hero encourage his dearest person to enjoy the nature. Similarly, Ralegh stresses the continuous denial in each of the six stanzas. The writing styles employed in two poems replicate the images of each other. One can prove such similarity by the fact that both works are examples of iambic tetrameter poems, contain twenty-four lines, as well as include instances of assonance that highlights the meaning of themes. Third, similarity exists in the fact that two poems are pastoral dramas. However, besides sharing common aspects, both have substantial differences.
The most obvious point of contrast between “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd” is that Marlowe’s poem is an invitation, while Ralegh’s work serves as an answer to the proposal. By their nature, poetries of both authors are connected and, at the same time, have nothing in common. Despite the fact that two works refer to the same subjects, they have different functions as one poses a question, while the other answers it. In Christopher Marlowe’s verse, the shepherd attempts to convince his beloved by emphasizing the things he can give to her. On the contrary, Sir Walter Ralegh’s poem shows how the nymph uses similar method and diction to deny his offer.
The next difference is the theme discussed in each piece of poetry. The main idea of Marlowe’s poem is that love might be experienced by everyone and overcome every obstacle. Christopher’s hero is in love with the girl. He expresses his attraction to her and asks her to live with him, as well as to be his beloved person. In return the shepherd promises her everything that she might want. In “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” one may notice that the character swears to offer her the things he cannot give. For example, he states that he will provide her with “a cap of flowers, and a kirtle” and “a belt of straw and ivy buds”. It is evident that he offers her things that he will not manage to give her mainly due to his deep love for her. It is also apparent that shepherd’s desire to make his nymph happy is so great that he seems to believe in the possibility of his promises fulfillment. As a result, Marlowe poem is a drama with a materialistic and romantic attitude towards the concept of love.
Unlike “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” the theme of Ralegh is love, which cannot be compared to material things. In his response to the original work, the author shows that the nymph feels that affection cannot be compared with material world. “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” provides an answer to Marlowe’s piece of poetry with a practical point of view on love. The nymph thinks that the shepherd cannot give her the things he has promised because he is only a shepherd. She knows that he does not have much money or material wealth. Even if she loves him, she cannot live with him as she is sure that he will fail to provide her with everything promised. The nymph is also conscious of the shepherd’s hidden seductions. She is smart enough to reject his proposal by using the exact words. As a result, one can see that the shepherd resembles a dreamer, while the nymph tries to look realistically on the surrounding world.
The other obvious point of contrast for the two pieces of poetry is speaker’s tone. Christopher’s speaker is a young shepherd who wants the girl he loves to live with him. The tone of the passionate character is romantic and careful. One may notice how hopeful sounds the shepherd when he offers his nymph everything and promises her a life of pastoral luxury. Marlowe does not draw readers’ attention to the hero or setting but to the claims that the shepherd makes in his attempts to make the young woman love him. However, the tone of the response is not as romantic. Regretfully, the reply is not what the shepherd desired to hear. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” includes the aspects of delight and innocence, while “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” involves the features of doubt and skepticism. Probably, there was a time when the woman might have agreed to marry shepherd, but she has come through several seasons and knows what may occur over time. As a result, she underlines the fact that the things he offers are great until the weather changes and makes everything look differently. It is evident in the following lines:
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.
The evidence shows that Ralegh’s piece of poetry is a satire of Marlowe’s one. It means that Ralegh turns Marlowe’s sincere drama into a realistic refutation of shepherds’ statements and confirmation of the silliness of pastoral love.
Finally, both poems differ by their nature. Christopher Marlowe’s verse is idealistic and pastoral. The work romanticizes and idealizes the nature, love, as well as rural life. For example, Marlowe writes about “pleasures” that are present in “…valleys, groves, hills, and fields”. Such words prove the romantic attitude of the writer towards the world. On the contrary, Ralegh’s work is practical and cynical. The author’s point of view is explained by the fact that the world is realistic and that the shepherd does not speak the truth. To express such attitude, the speaker tells that “rivers rage and rocks grow cold”, while “flowers do fade”. The given lines underline the cynicism and Ralegh’s humorous position. There is also a difference in two works on their expressions. Marlow includes simple verse structure with rhyming couplets, while Ralegh’s poem has the same structure but it offers the readers to think what the shepherd will say.
In conclusion, an analysis of two poems reveals that “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd” are similar in their structure and different in the tone of authors, main theme outlined by both speakers, as well as the nature of works. Marlowe and Raleigh illustrate contrasting ideas about nature. At the same time, the nymph’s poem serves as a parody and questions the truth of words of the original poem. The first work idealizes pastoral life, while its companion portrays its negative aspects. Despite the fact that both speakers have different attitudes towards love, they have exaggerated their points of view. The shepherd employs the beauty of nature to depict his love, while the nymph uses its impermanence to illustrate how their love might eventually disappear. As a result, studying of both pieces of poetry helps understand how one person can express his feelings, while the other can describe how the effect of time may alter everything.