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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
- Sir Walter Ralegh (1554?-1618)

    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, they 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.


kirtle - a woman's loose gown worn in the Middle Ages.
Philomel - literary term for nightingale

This poem is in answer to Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. William Carlos Williams' Raleigh Was Right was written about this poem.

It can be found for example in:

  • Harmon, William, ed. The Classic Hundred Poems (Second Edition). New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Williams, Oscar, ed. Immortal Poems of the English Language New York: Pocket Books, 1952.