The British Renaissance produced many types of literature for the world to see. Shakespeare, Spenser, and Marlowe all contributed to the shaping of the time period. Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" portrays one of the typical love poems that can be seen from the Renaissance. A man is in search of the love of another girl, or woman. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote a poem in response to this passage of Marlowe's entitled "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." Although the name of the girl is not stated anywhere in the former poem, Raleigh decided to use a wood nymph as his subject. The Shepherd seems to be a meaningful man. His plead for the nymph's love seems true, but is hollow. The Nymph's reply frankly points this out to the Shepherd in her reply and jokingly refuses him her love. The themes of age, weather and the seasons, and materialism all appear in the two poems. Though, both authors use them differently to show how love should be attained.
Love should be attained by use of the heart. This theory is the premise of Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." The Shepherd in his poem offers the world to his Love and everything with it. He is an old man and hopes to win the girl's heart. Notice the word 'hopes.'
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
And so the last two lines of the poem end. Putting these lines at the very end of the poem emphasizes the unsure gestures of the Shepherd. His age also brings up another very interesting view of Marlowe's. In the poem, Marlowe expresses the idea that age has no influence upon love and a person's feelings. The shallow rivers, waterfalls, birds singing, and flowers all personify the Shepherd's feeling that age has nothing to do with love and his hopes of winning the younger girl's heart. The scene that is created is highly discernible as Spring, the time of year associated with love and light-heartedness. The allusions to these things also demonstrates the Shepherd's hollow sense of hope. The Shepherd tries to lure the girl by offering her everything in the world. This materialism clearly shows that Marlowe believes that only fancy trinkets and beautiful possessions will win the heart of a girl. In virtually every stanza, there is a reference to a nicety that the Shepherd offers the girl in pursuit of her love.
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
Christopher Marlowe's Shepherd clearly believes that the only surefire way of attaining love would be to offer as much as you can and lure your subject into a false sense of being loved by giving her (or him) the world.
The world means nothing to Sir Walter Raleigh's Nymph, the girl Raleigh presumes to be the object of the Shepherd's pleas, in his poem entitled "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" in direct response to Christopher Marlowe. The beautiful forest creature is young compared to the elderly Shepherd. This is the first point with which Raleigh disagrees with Marlowe. To Raleigh, the age of the two lovers is an issue when two people love each other. The nymph says sarcastically:
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.
Also in contrast to Marlowe's poem, Raleigh implants the scenery of winter, which denotes the death and devastation that comes along with it. Winter has always been linked to the dreary side of life and the Nymph's reply, by making a blunt reference to this, clearly states that her love can not be bought with gifts and that they could never love each other.
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.
The last two lines of the preceding passage are also quite interesting. The Nymph in these lines says that the Shepherd is lying and that he's only dreaming that he loves her. Some day, just like the seasons, a winter will fall upon the relationship. The most assertive thing that the Nymph says in Raleigh's poem is the rejection of all the niceties that the Shepherd will to give her. Although the Shepherd is 'willing' to go to any length to please her, she flatly refuses the offer. Why? Not because she is ungrateful, but because she knows that the relationship will not last if it is based on material things.
The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy coral clasps, thy kirtle and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
While Marlowe's opinion points more towards the liberal, open side of the argument, Raleigh sees that a more conservative view should take hold.
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" are both poems that take an extreme view of how to attain love. The former certainly agrees that age has no impact on love and the way to win someone's heart is to buy someone gifts. The latter, on the other hand, states that age is an inexcusable aspect of love and that the materialism of the former is too hollow to build a relationship upon. Both Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh made their cases quite nicely, but Raleigh's would most likely win in an argument between the two since the mindset of the time was to be more conservative in your thoughts and your feelings. In the end, the Nymph leaves no hope for the Shepherd and gives him no room to try again. Love is harsh.