The Shepherd had a sincere proposal, offering all the riches in his grasp to give to his love. But the Nymph rejects it for a simple reason, the only reason necessary; the Shepherd only promises materialist possessions and never mentions a serious relationship, let alone actual love. If an honest man is willing to give everything he has to a woman, is this action considered love or is it lust? If a woman falls for this bribery is she considered materialistic and naive? By the Nymph actually putting forth an argument and rejecting the Shepherd’s offer she is taking a stand for all woman. The Nymph is an icon proving that woman cannot be purchased with promises of earthly-minded items and a worry free life, but rather the only gift that is essential, love.
The Shepherd has very sweet and innocent intentions, trying to flatter his love from the start “Come with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove, That valleys groves, hills, and fields…” (1-3). He is promising a happy comfortable life that will consist of them both being able to enjoy all nature has to offer, and is very honest that this is all he has. The Nymph’s reply is bluntly stated, 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 they love (1-4).
The world does not work so simply, he is young and has not yet experienced what the world has to offer so how does he know what true love is? The Nymph cannot be persuaded if the Shepherd does not know what love is and only proposing false pretenses.
In the next stanza the Shepherd is sharing his own enjoyment with his love
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feeding their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals (5-8).
He believes woman can be won over by the idea of nature, just like he has.
What woman would not want to sit and enjoy all the beauty that the landscape presents? The Nymph, thinking realistically replies,
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come (5-8).
She understands time changes things, from the earthly surroundings to his not yet mentioned love. The Nymph realizes that neither one of these can stand the tests of time. The Nymph continues to defend her case by saying,
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 (9-12).
The Shepherd is a sweet talker and knows how to make a woman feel young, as if this young love will never fade. But like the spring fades to fall, everyone must grow old, and when they grow old together will his love still hold true? With no promises of love this far, and the Shepherd still mentioning how nature will provide, it will not be present.
Along with offering his love what nature can provide he promised beds of roses, a gown made of the finest wool and slippers with buckles made of the purest gold. These gifts do not convince the Nymph as she defends herself in saying, “All these in me no means can move to come to thee and be thy love” (19-20). It is not enough for the Shepherd to offer these favors without knowing his true feelings first. The possessions may last, but it does not mean the same as ‘I love you”.
In the last attempts to allure his lover the Shepherd asks for a final answer, “If these delights thy mind may move, Then live with me and by my love” (23-24). He has a very romantic tone, offering everything he can but by the last lines of the poem still no mention of loving her back. In a final reply the Nymph states,
But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delight my mind might they move
To live with thee and be they love.
The Nymph believes if they stayed forever young and their love blossomed, love would last. But the entire poem mentions change and how does she know his feelings will actual stay true?
The Nymph was correct in her reply to the Shepherd. He believed he could win a woman over by only sounding sincere, and not actually following through with his promises. He also thought that woman only wanted material things. Throughout his entire quest for a love he never mentions the essential factor in creating a relationship, love. So how can a woman leave everything she knows for a love that does not exist?
Courtney from Study Moose
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