The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd

Walter Ralegh

Edited by Jack Lynch

The copytext is Englands Helicon (1600). The spelling is as in the copy-text, but u and v, i and j, are adjusted as in modern usage.

See also the poem’s companion piece, Marlowe’s “Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”

The Nimphs reply to the Sheepheard

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Sheepheards tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold, [5]
When Rivers rage, and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomell becommeth dombe,
The rest complaines of cares to come.

The flowers doe fade, & wanton fieldes,
To wayward winter reckoning yeeldes, [10]
A honny tongue, a hart of gall,
Is fancies spring, but sorrowes fall.

Thy gownes, thy shooes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy poesies,
Soone breake, soone wither, soone forgotten: [15]
In follie ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and Ivie buddes,
Thy Corall claspes and Amber studdes,
All these in mee no meanes can move,
To come to thee, and be thy love. [20]

But could youth last, and love still breede,
Had joyes no date, nor age no neede,
Then these delights my minde might move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Ignoto.

Notes

Philomell
Philomela is a figure from Greek mythology who was raped and had her tongue cut out by her brother-in-law, after which she was turned into a nightingale. The name is often used poetically for the nightingale itself, known for its beautiful song, even in the nighttime.
wanton
Here “cheerful,” “lively,” or “luxurioust,” though the word has a range of meanings, including “sexually promiscuous,” “free, unrestrained,” “frisky,” and “lustful.”
gall
Literally “bile,” the secretion of the gall bladder; used figuratively for bitterness.
kirtle
A long gown. The cap, kirtle, and posies, like the belt, ivy buds, coral clasps, and amber studs in the next stanza, all come directly from Marlowe’s “Passionate Shepherd.”
date
“The limit or end of a period of time or of the duration of something” (OED).
Ignoto
“By the unknown one” (Latin). The poem is in fact by Sir Walter Ralegh.