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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd


by Sir Walter Ralegh

Stanza 5 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 17-18

Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,

  • In these lines, the nymph continues to reject the shepherd's gifts and promises. All of these things are gifts promised to the addressed by the shepherd in the Marlowe poem. Sounds like a pretty sweet offer to us!

Lines 19-20

All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

  • But it looks like the nymph is not having it. Lines 19 and 20 really spell it out for the shepherd: all the gifts mentioned earlier cannot convince me to come and live with you
  • Once again, Ralegh's choice of wording raises intriguing questions. The word "means," for example, is defined as both a method by which something is brought about and also as another word for money and financial resources. So what is the nymph really saying? That the shepherd stirred her heart but not her pocket book? That she wants to come but there's just no feasible way she can make it happen? Or is this just a plain, flat-out no?
  • Compare and contrast these lines to their parallels in the Marlowe poem. Marlowe's shepherd speaks of being moved by pleasures and delights, not means, which sort of sounds like two totally different things. "Pleasures and delights" have an element of fun and frivolity associated with them, whereas "means" seem very cut-and-dry, by-the-books and otherwise totally dull and boring. It's as though we're getting more of this by-the-book nymph-itude happening here.
  • Lighten up, will ya? 
  • We've also got some cool alliteration and consonance going on in line 19—lots of M and N sounds all over the place. If you think about those sounds, doesn't it kind of sound like a mumble? Compared to the rest of Ralegh's diction, most of which is very pronounced and crisp, this line certainly seems to blend together on the tongue more than others.

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