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. The notes are my own.

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,° convince
To live with thee, and be thy love.
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,° [5] pen or enclosure
When Rivers rage, and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomell° becommeth dombe, nightingale
The rest complaines of cares to come.
The flowers doe fade, & wanton° fieldes, cheerful
To wayward° winter reckoning yeeldes,° [10] self-willed — gives in
A honny tongue, a hart of gall,° bile, bitterness
Is fancies spring, but sorrowes fall.
Thy gownes, thy shooes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle,° and thy poesies,° gown — bunches of flowers
Soone breake, soone wither, soone forgotten: [15]
In follie° ripe, in reason rotten. foolishness
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, expiration
Then these delights my minde might move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.




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.
Here “cheerful,” “lively,” or “luxurioust,” though the word has a range of meanings, including “sexually promiscuous,” “free, unrestrained,” “frisky,” and “lustful.”