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Satire in The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

Satire Examples in The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd:

Text of the Poem

🔒 7

"Then these delights my mind might move..."   (Text of the Poem)

Once again, the nymph uses almost the exact same words as the shepherd in order to craft her response. This satirical use of his language reveals the divide between fantasy and reality: the shepherd and the nymph look at the same subject and see drastically different things. Ironically, the nymph sees the tools of the shepherd’s courtship as evidence for why she must reject him. While the shepherd has an unrealistic perception that nature is unchanging, the nymph’s realistic view of time reveals his promises to be impossible.

"Thy..."   (Text of the Poem)

This stanza consists of almost exactly the same language of the original poem. Raleigh’s speaker make small changes to the poem in order to use the shepherd’s words to reject him. The shepherd promises her “a belt of straw and ivy” in Marlowe’s poem. However, here she calls it “thy” belt, assigning the object to the shepherd rather than accept ownership of it. Changes like this are a form of satire in which the nymph mocks the shepherd’s unrealistic view of the world by repurposing his own words.

"fall..."   (Text of the Poem)

The nymph maps human emotion onto the seasons in order to show that love changes over time. Spring is often used in poetry to refer to youth and coming of age; Fall, to middle age or adulthood. The nymph claims that while young lovers have honey tongues and fancy each other, over time the love fades and creates sorrow. Notice how the nymph uses poetic metaphors to refute the shepherd’s poetic claims; she repurposes his words to disprove him.

"honey tongue..."   (Text of the Poem)

The phrase “honey tongue” means sweet talk. In this context, it refers to the sweet poetry and elaborate metaphors that the shepherd uses to woo his love. While the shepherd uses these metaphors to convince the woman that he will love her forever, these lines show that his wooing ironically makes her think of his inconstancy, rather than his constancy.

"wayward..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “wayward” describes something that does not conform to a fixed rule or principle of conduct. Unlike the pastoral landscape that the shepherd paints, which is predictable, calm, and in harmony with human desires, this winter is unaccountable to human expectations. The nymph breaks apart the shepherd’s promises using the reality of nature.

"To live with thee, and be thy love...."   (Text of the Poem)

Throughout the poem, Raleigh uses Marlowe’s exact words in a slightly different manner. These parallel lines represent a form of direct satire, the use of irony or ridicule to expose and criticize someone’s foolishness or vice in contemporary politics or topical issues. In parroting the shepherd’s words back to him in a way that disproves them, the nymph mocks not only this lover but the poetic tropes he uses to woo her. Raleigh uses the mocking voice of the nymph to criticise the entire literary form of the pastoral. Which was extremely popular in his time.

"pretty pleasures..."   (Text of the Poem)

The “pretty pleasures” to which the nymph refers are the valleys, groves, hills, woods, etc. that the shepherd promises to bring her in the first stanza of Marlowe’s poem. Her immediate response is to cast doubt on the Shepherd’s truthfulness and to remind him that the things he promises her are fleeting. They have come and gone before. While the speaker of Marlowe’s poem sees the world through poetic imagery and pastoral metaphors, the speaker of Raleigh’s poem sees the world through reason and a realistic understanding of nature.

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