Double the Fun: Shepherds and Nymphs and Elizabethan Poets, Oh My!

Happy National Poetry Month!

To celebrate, here are two poems that together form a little poetic conversation. Nothing says spring like four-hundred-year-old pastoral poetry, right?

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Christopher Marlowe

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd
Sir Walter Ralegh

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.

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.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

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.

 

See also: William Carlos Williams, “Raleigh Was Right”

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11 thoughts on “Double the Fun: Shepherds and Nymphs and Elizabethan Poets, Oh My!

  1. I have a friend who is a Renaissance scholar. A guy was trying to impress her once and made the mistake of sending her Marlowe’s poem without knowing Raleigh’s existed. Of course, she responded with “The Nymph’s Reply…” and the awkwardness and humor ensued.

  2. I didn’t know about The Nymph’s Reply, so I googled it, and now I am a little bit smarter. These two poems make me think of optimism and pessimism.

  3. Pingback: “lavishing honey light at her auburn feet”: George Elliott Clarke’s “Discourse on Pure Virtue” | Rosemary and Reading Glasses

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