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For me, the nymph in her practicality is a far better choice than the shepherd who is trapped in his ideal illusionary world. In essence the poems of Marlowe and Raleigh reflect opposite sides of the coin of love, with Marlowe’s version reflecting an idealistic and passionate lover while Raleigh’s response reflects the views of a more jaded and cynical individual that bases her views on the reality of life (Edgecombe 39).
Since I am an inherently pessimistic individual I cannot help but concur with the approach of Raleigh in his views on love. The shepherd for me is far too idealistic, he promises gowns, gold and finery as exemplified in the stanza “with buckles of the purest gold” (Various 28) which shows his overly simplistic idealism since he makes no mention of how he expects to attain such items without money.
The approach of the shepherd to love is simplistic, verging on the ideal rather than the reality of existence and as such represents a type of love doomed to failure rather than success.
The Shepherds Love
The shepherd’s love is based on idealism and materialism; he views his love as an ideal and states his intentions of dressing his love in the finest materials available. Yet the nymph wisely realizes the folly in his statements for an ideal quickly fades through the passing of time. The line “but could youth last and love still breed” (Jokinen 1) indicates how through time the nymphs own beauty will fade, the ideal of the shepherd will be lost and what is left is not what the shepherd desires (Hamilton 11).
For what the shepherd wants is not his love in her entirety but rather that which is connected to her beauty (Edgecombe 39). There is no mention of mind, intellect, grace or talent but rather of desire on the part of the shepherd. He merely desires her and shows no care for what is beyond that which he desires. Not only that it can be considered that the shepherd himself has a serpent’s tongue for how can he bring gold and finery to the nymph when he is but a mere shepherd?
The line “and truth in every shepherd’s tongue” (Jokinen 1) indicates how the nymph is dubious over the ability of the shepherd to actually care for her. This approach to love, for me, is far too idealistic which as a result shows how the shepherd gets lost in his own ideal world, lying in order to gain what he wants.
For me Raleigh’s approach to love is far more fitting and appealing, the quote “in folly ripe in reason rotten” (Jokinen 1), is an adequate expression of the love portrayed by Marlowe, lacking in reasoning and being utterly ridiculous (Hamilton 11). While there is such a thing as desire, a person must learn that his grasp should never exceed his reach, in that the person he goes after and what he promises must be something which is attainable.
The line “we will sit upon the rocks seeing the shepherds feed their flocks” (Various 28) indicates nothing more than idealism and a loss of reality on the part of the shepherd for he describes shepherds as being separate from himself however in reality he is also a shepherd. It must also be noted that the shepherd believes the nymph to be materialistic, the line “if these pleasures may thee move” (Various 28) indicates that he believes if he provides these things the nymph would accept to be his love (Edgecombe 39).
There is no feeling of deep romance; rather, it is a shallow version of love which is seated in desire rather than something which is pure and truly loving. The approach of Marlow shows nothing more than an idealistic fool who believes that a woman would be swayed by gifts and nothing more (Hamilton 11).
In the end the love of the shepherd which is full of idealism, lies and desire is doomed to fail. This is reflected in the nymph’s reply to the shepherd where the promises and idealism presented in the message of the shepherd to his love are picked apart and shown for what they really are.
For me love goes beyond simple promises and gestures, rather, love is often based in the reality of a situation with a person’s supposed ideal love often times being the worst possible person to fall in love with. In essence the approach of Raleigh is that of practicality, of knowing who to love and what to promise rather than give into idealism and foolish desire.
Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. “Marlowe, Heine, and “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” ANQ 17.2 (2004): 39-40. EBSCO. Web.
Hamilton, Lynn. “Donne’s THE BAIT.” Explicator 46.3 (1988): 211. EBSCO. Web.
Jokinen, Aniina. “Raleigh’s Reply.” Luminarium. Web.
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Various. “The Passionate Shepherd To His Love.” Old Ballads. 28. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, 2006. EBSCO. Web.