Wider Contexts

1. Literary context: other text by a different writer: Sir Walter Raleigh's poem "The Nymph's Reply"

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was a soldier, explorer and colonizer, but also a courtier, philosopher, poet and historian. He became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1580s, and he was one of the most politically powerful men at her court. He was executed in 1618 by King James I, Elizabeth’s successor, on charges of treason. Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” is Raleigh’s response to Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”. The date of the poem is unknown but it is thought to be about 1592.


  1. Read Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” and compare the woman’s reply and your own replies to the shepherd.      



The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd


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 complain 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.



’Philomel gammel poetisk betegnelse for en nattergal


dumb stum


wanton frodig


wayward lunefuld


reckoning regnskab


yield vige for


gall egl. galde; (her) bitterhed, vrede


fancy indbildning, fantasi


no means på ingen måde


breed formere sig, gro, trives



In the nymph’s reply you will find the following line “In folly ripe, in reason rotten”. What does that tell you about the reasons for the nymph’s reaction to the shepherd’s invitation? Be as precise as you can.                                                                                                                                                  




Comprehension, analysis and interpretation

  1. In groups: Translate the poem and then take turns to read a stanza each and to rephrase the
  2. Which two lines did you particularly like/ not like? Why? Learn the two lines by heart.
  3. Stanza 1: Why hasn’t the nymph been persuaded to come and live with the shepherd and be his
  4. Is stanza 2 a direct reply to Marlowe’s stanza 2?
  5. How does the nymph follow up her verbal attack in the rest of the poem?
  6. What aspects of nature does the nymph focus on?
  7. The last line in stanza 5 is almost a repetition of the last line in stanza 1. Why doesn’t the author 
      end the poem after the fifth stanza?
  8. Comment on the number of examples of alliteration in each stanza. What is the function of 
      alliteration in this poem?
  9. Stanza 1 and the rest of the poem: What is the tone? Does it change?
10. Stanza 2-5: Is there an implied ‘but’ at the start of each stanza? Why/why not?
11. Characterize the tone:  ironic   joyful   longing   mocking   optimistic   pessimistic   polite   sarcastic 
      sincere   skeptical   teasing witty
12. What is the theme of the poem?
13. Is this a carpe diem poem? Why/ why not?
14. Is the poem a parody of Marlowe’s poem? Look for example at direct references to Marlowe’s 
      poem, meter, rhyme, structure, length, the use of alliteration and the choice of words.


Learning check

No study aids




1. What does carpe diem mean?___________________________________________________________



2. The nymph’s reply is an answer to a poem called ________________________________________ by


_____________________________________________________________ .


3. The poem is a parody of that poem because ____________________________________________________________________________________









4.  Write down one of the two lines you learned by heart____________________________________________________________________



5. The nymph’s reply was written by _______________________________________________  in about


__________________________________________ (year)


Wider Contexts

2. Literary context: other text by a different writer: John Donne's poem "The Bait" (text, glossary and questions)

John Donne (1572-1631) In the early 1590s Donne studied law and wrote love poems and satires which he circulated among his friends. He made a name for himself at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and in 1596-1597 he went on a military expedition to the Azores. Donne’s life is usually divided into two different and opposing phases. The first phase is typified in his witty, passionate, daring love poems. In the second phase, he became the most famous preacher of his day. He was ordained in 1615 and from 1621 until his death he was Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. His poems were published after his death.

John Donne’s poem “The Bait” is also a response to Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”. It is from Songs and Sonets which was first published in 1633.

1. Read the poem “The Bait” by John Donne and compare Raleigh’s and Donne’s responses to Marlowe’s poem.

The Bait

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.

There will the river whisp'ring run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun ;
And there th' enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

If thou, to be so seen, be'st loth,
By sun or moon, thou dark'nest both,
And if myself have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net.

Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest;
Or curious traitors, sleeve-silk flies,
Bewitch poor fishes' wand'ring eyes.

For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait :
That fish, that is not catch'd thereby,
Alas! is wiser far than I.



Bait    madding, lokkemad

prove    opleve, afprøve

brook    bæk

line    fiskesnøre

hook    fiskekrog

en’amoured    forelsket (they want to be caught)

thou wilt    you will

channel    sejlrende, kanal

amourously    forelsket

thee    you

beest loth    are unwilling

have leave to    have lov til

angling    fiske

reed    siv

weed    ukrudtsplante

beset    angribe

snare    snare (device used for catching small animals)

windowy    (her) stormasket

bedded    der er sat ud

bank    banke, bred



Comprehension, analysis and interpretation

1. Who is speaking to whom about what?
2. Stanza 2: Explain line 2. How powerful are the woman’s eyes. See also stanza 4.
3. Stanza 2: Why the personification of the fish? Are they more than just fish? See also the rest of the poem and try to figure out who is the fish, who is fishing, and who catches whom?
4. Stanza 1 and 2: What is the mood and the tone? Where in the poem do the mood and the tone change?
5. Stanza 3: Where is the woman the speaker addresses?
6. Stanza 4: “so seen”: Seen how?
7. Stanza 4: Find an example of hyperbole.
8. Stanzas 5 and 6: Which methods are used? Are they fair?
9. Stanza 7: What has happened to the speaker’s mood? What emotion in the woman does he appeal to?
10. How does Donne make clear that this poem is a response to Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”? Look for example at structure, direct and indirect quotes, meter, rhyme and imagery.