Central Themes of The Passionate Shepherd to his Love and The Nymph’s Reply

The poems “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” by Sir William Raleigh, and “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe have the same central theme, that love and nature are beautiful but don’t last forever. Both authors use literary elements to support this central idea.

In “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”, Raleigh uses imagery and conflict to convey his central idea of love and nature are beautiful, but don’t last forever. In line 6 of the poem, the Nymph replies “When rivers rage and rocks grow cold”. This is an example of imagery and conflict at the same time. The nature won’t stay appealing forever. The leaves will wither away with winter, the rocks will be unused and covered in snow, and the river will rush by, moving too fast to be beautiful. The nymph could also be referencing the shepherd’s heart as the rocks, and the river as him, moving past her too fast, leaving her behind. This is an example of a metaphor, because it doesn’t use like or as in the phrase. His heart is the rock, because it grows cold and hard as time passes, and he is the river, getting over her and what drew him to her in the first place: beauty. Also, in lines 9 through 12, the nymph says, “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields, to wayward winter reckoning yields, a honey tongue, a heart of gall, It’s fancy’s spring, but sorrows fall”. This is an example of imagery and connects to the central idea. It connects to the central idea that love and nature are beautiful, but don’t last forever because just like the few lines above, nature’s beauty will fade, leaving the dark and cold of winter. In the 16th century, shepherds were known to lie to the nymphs to get female company on their journeys so they weren’t lonely. The “heart of gall” is referring to the shepherd and how his heart will turn bitter in time. The honey tongue is the sweet talking of the shepherd, trying to woo her to come with him. This is an example of conflict because the nymph knows what the shepherd is trying to do, and she’s rejecting him. Another example of imagery is in line 5: “Time drives the flock from field to fold”. The nymph knows that the sheep will move away from their field they reside in, and following the shepherd away from the view, so the couple can’t see them anymore. The nature isn’t beautiful anymore, and the love will eventually fade away.

In the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” the central theme of nature and love as beautiful but ephemeral is connected to the poem by literary elements such as imagery and conflict. For example, “And we will sit upon the rocks and watch the shepherds feed their flocks,” (Marlowe, Lines 5-6) ties into the central theme because the scene won’t last long. The sheep move on, and the rocks get covered in snow, now unusable. This beautiful scene, just like the shepherd’s love for the nymph won’t last long. The seasons will change, and just like nature, their love will move on. An example of imagery is in lines 9 through 10. “And I will make thee beds of roses and a thousand fragrant posies”. This is an example of imagery and ties to the central idea because the bed of roses is what the shepherd sleeps on, so he will give all he has to the girl to make her happy. Sooner or later though, the roses will fade and turn brown, looking displeasing to the girl, just like the shepherd’s love for her. The love will disappear and turn non-existent. Lastly, another example of conflict is in line 15: “Fair lined slippers for the cold.” The shepherd is trying to woo the nymph with material goods, not telling her that he would keep her for the year, not letting her go for the winter. The shepherd would make beautiful and warm slippers hinting that he would keep her. He loves her, but mainly only for the company. He wouldn’t love her with all his heart, he just wants female compan

The theme of nature and love being beautiful but ephemeral is conveyed effectively by both Raleigh and Marlowe in these poems via common, important literary devices.

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