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The poet starts the sonnet "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherded" with an alluring title that arouses debate and curiosity at first sight. Typically, the title indicates that the poem was written by a girl in response to a letter received from the same child. The themes, atmosphere, and sound of this poem mean that the two are enjoying affectionate allure toward each other, as suggested by the title (Raleigh 1). Indeed, responding to specific individuals in the form of a poem was a distinct feature of seventeenth-century literature, and "The Nymph's Reply" is no exception. Meter is a literary feature the poet uses to make this sonnet stand out. In fact, as opposed to the most utilized meter of the time, the six quatrains; "The Nymph's Reply" instead thrives on an iambic tetrameter. The speaker in this poem is equally distinguished by the title of this poem, and even the consecration holds substantial historical significance. The speaker is described as “The Nymph” whose meaning goes beyond conventional understanding. At the time when this poem was done; gorgeous, glamorous, and cute women were normally identified by metaphor and symbols in literature. Thusly, the speaker must have been a beautiful girl, with admirable naivety as well as innocence. The setting of this poem does not seem epic with the “edenic” topic Ralegh hints in the title head (Raleigh 1). In fact, beauty and perfection tower high in this sonnet, however, the countryside setting only speaks more about the pastoral theme in the poem.
The use of imagery and symbolism in the poem gives the author a foundation of having relative autonomy over the plot, setting, and themes that are evidenced in “The Nymph’s Reply.” Some of the themes that imagery and symbolizes make thrive in the poem include the passage of time, immorality, foolishness, and folly, as well as the relationship between the natural world and man. The word “shepherded” in itself is an iconic symbol used by the poet. Typically, the shepherded in the literal sense is inseparable from the beauty, warmth, lovely and the fuzzy nature of the countryside. In fact, because of the poem id one in the Elizabethan England, the passionate shepherded then comes with the symbol of her admirable; the old Queen Bess. In the second line of the poem, Ralegh says; “If all the world and love were young, And truth in every shepherd's tongue” which symbolizes the betrayal of love at that point in history (Raleigh 1). In essence, the affectionate estate faces controversy in this poem, and the shepherded are forced to lie to survive the opposition that is. In "The Nymph's Reply," line five is especially a symbol of the passing of time, and the change of seasons “Time drives the flocks from field to fold” (Raleigh 1). The description of events in the countryside is an imagery of the unfolding new romantic atmosphere altogether. On the other hand, line 6 symbolizes the dangers of nature, and how precarious interacting with life on the countryside could prove, “When rivers rage and rocks grow cold” (Raleigh 1). On the other hand, “Philomel” is symbolically used in this sonnet. Otherwise referred to as Philomela, the term is a name given to a goddess of the Greek, who is thought to have turned into a bird. In line 7 for instance, Philomel is symbolically used to mean a musical instrument, “And Philomel becometh dumb” (Raleigh 1). The imagery of lack of eternity is made bold when Ralegh sets ground that the songs of never shepherded last. Furthermore, the term could symbolize the nightingale, the melodious birds, whose dumbness reveals the approaching winter.
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Raleigh, Sir Walter. “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” 4.1596 (2012): PP. 1–1.
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