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Vocabulary in The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

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

Text of the Poem

🔒 10

"wanton..."   (Text of the Poem)

When referring to nature, the adjective “wanton” means “profuse in growth,” “luxuriant, abundant, and unchecked.” This creates the image of a wild field that is uncontrollable. In Marlowe’s poem, the shepherd promises his lover that he will make her a bed of roses and clothing out of these flowers. However, in her response, the nymph tells him that the field cannot be tamed or used for human purposes.

"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.

"a heart of gall..."   (Text of the Poem)

The noun “gall” refers literally to the secretion of the liver, but metaphorically suggests a feeling of bitterness. According to the Greek medical theory known as “humorism,” gall was responsible for feelings of melancholy and sorrow. The sentiment in this line and the next is that the shepherd’s poetic seductions, the ways of his “honey tongue,” eventually lead to sorrow and waste.

"reckoning..."   (Text of the Poem)

The noun “reckoning” has strong religious connotations. It refers to the act of accounting to God after death for one’s conduct in life. The speaker describes the flowers as yielding to winter’s “reckoning” to dramatize the confrontation between the pastoral and the reality of time and nature. In a sense, the pastoral must submit to winter and reckon for the falseness it perpetuated. The shepherd’s lavish promises must reckon with the nymph’s realistic understanding of the world.

"yields..."   (Text of the Poem)

In this context, the verb “yields” means both to relinquish control to and to give. Raleigh takes this word from the first stanza of Marlowe’s poem in which nature “yields,” or gives, pleasures to the lovers who experience it. However, the nymph uses the more violent meaning of the word: the flowers and fields yield to winter. In other words, rather than giving pleasure to the lovers, these beautiful objects in nature are destroyed by winter.

"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.

"wanton..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “wanton” also refers to a lusty person. In Marlowe’s poem, the speaker uses nature to make his love claims and convince the woman that she belongs with him. Nature assists in his courtship. In the nymph’s reply, the speaker personifies nature as “wanton,” a word with negative connotations of dangerous wildness, in order to show a different side of the natural world the shepherd paints as idyllic.

"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.

"becometh dumb..."   (Text of the Poem)

The expression “to become dumb” means to lose the ability to speak. Philomel going “dumb” might also signify that her story has been forgotten. The nymph’s words might invoke a broader sense of time than the progression of that day. This reference could point to the time in history when humanity no longer remembers Greek stories and Philomel is silenced and forgotten. This larger vision of time realistically frames the shepherd’s love for the nymph as insignificant; if even the great stories of the Greeks fall into ruin, then no mortal love story can last the way the shepherd promises.

"fold..."   (Text of the Poem)

The noun “fold” refers to a pen or enclosure for animals. In Marlowe’s poem, the speaker tells the woman that they will sit on rocks and watch shepherds feed their flocks. The nymph’s reply here adds reality to the picture that the shepherd paints. Though they may enjoy watching the sheep for a time, eventually the sun will set and the sheep will go back to their pen. This challenge to his logic also indicates the progression of time which is absent from the shepherd’s vision of their future together.

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