The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

If all the world and love were young,

And truth in every shepherd's tongue,

These pretty pleasures might me move

To live with thee and be thy Love.

But Time drives flocks from field to fold;

When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;

And Philomel becometh dumb;

The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields

To wayward Winter reckoning yields:

A honey tongue, a heart of gall,

Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,

Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,

Soon break, soon wither-soon forgotten,

In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy-buds,

Thy coral clasps and amber studs,

All these in me no means can move

To come to thee and be thy Love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,

Had joys no date, nor age no need,

Then these delights my mind might move

To live with thee and be thy Love.


A soldier, courtier and poet, Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth's and was knighted in 1585, but then was briefly imprisoned for having secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the queen's Maids in Waiting. After James I ascended the throne, Raleigh was imprisoned for a plot against the king's life and spent thirteen years in the Tower of London. After being released he led a disastrous search for El Dorado in Guiana and in 1618, upon his return to England in disgrace, was beheaded. One of the great Elizabethan poets, Raleigh wrote this poem as a witty rejoinder to his friend Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," which was published in the San Diego Reader last week.

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