Analysis Pages

Syntax in The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

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

Text of the Poem

🔒 4

"means..."   (Text of the Poem)

The unusual syntax of this line allows for the word “means” to carry two meanings. First, “means” can refer to the methods or procedures intended to achieve a goal. By that meaning, the shepherd’s gifts are “no means” which can effectively move the nymph to “be thy love.” Second, “means” also refers to money and financial resources. Thus, the nymph’s sentiment is: My love cannot be bought through gifts.

"might me move..."   (Text of the Poem)

The phrase “might me move,” with its dense alliteration and playfully unusual syntax, creates a tone that matches the sentiment of the line. The phrase is excessively sweet, just like the shepherd’s “pretty pleasures.”

"Time drives..."   (Text of the Poem)

Raleigh uses an active, rather than passive, construction here to emphasize that time itself is responsible for the action. By doing this, Raleigh personifies time by giving it agency and power, attributions normally given to humans. Notice how he continues to use such active phrasing to describe the actions of non-human entities that follow.

"If..."   (Text of the Poem)

The conjunction “if” introduces conditions or suppositions, like beliefs, that are then balanced by a possible result. This means that any “if” statement indicates that the conditions are only possible, that they are not representative of reality. That Raleigh begins the poem with this word suggests that many of the conditions that follow are unreal things, which creates a tone of uncertainty or, possibly, mockery.

Analysis Pages