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An Analysis of The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Raleigh

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In life there is an abundance of mediocre things, and love should not be one of them. I believe Sir Walter Raleigh intends to reveal this to us in “Her Reply.” In this poem, a woman rejects a shepherd’s romantic but naïve proposal. This poem is a superior selection because it contains great connotation, and the alliteration is deep which gives insight to the woman’s philosophy on life and love. The connotation in this poem is a combination of negative and hypothetical words. The woman first of all makes it clear that only ‘if all the world and love were young’ she would be his love. Using repetition, she also tells him promises are short lived; they will soon break, soon wither, and soon be forgotten.

In stanzas three and four, she tells the shepherd that while his offer may seem desirable it lacks foundation and is transient. She attacks and ridicules him with satire by stating that his ideas are unrealistic. Apart from its connotation, this poem’s alliteration adds a sense of humor and irony. Raleigh mocks Marlowe’s poem by mimicking the alliteration and rhyme scheme Marlowe uses. ‘Time drives flocks from field to fold’ indicates how the other goes from soft to cacophonous. He also uses the principle of tempus fugit (time flies) unlike Marlowe who uses carpe diem (seize the day). She is fully aware that time will pass, things will change, and his love won’t last through it. Given these points we have an idea of what kind of woman we are dealing with here. In the final analysis she is no ignorant woman, rather she is filled with wisdom. The shepherd cannot captivate her by promising her material things like pleasure or a bed of roses. This reveals us not just her opinions but her character and the principles she lives by. She won’t fall for some silly shepherd’s pretenses. Raleigh illuminates us by showing us that sometimes in life, especially as women, life is much more precious if we are prudent and discerning concerning love and life.

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