Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd *

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.

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.

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, thy 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 may move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Sir Walter Raleigh
*his retort to Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love"

Last Friday night I posted Marlowe's "Passionate Shepherd" and a video clip from "My Fair Lady", randomly, to lighten the mood of a previous post. Only a day or so later did I look into a biography of Marlowe, remembering that Oh, how could I forget, he's the guy that might have been Shakespeare. Most believe he was a spy entangled in the operations of a fellow spy, Sir Walter Raleigh, who was executed for his misdeeds. Marlowe's death was suspicious and he is widely believed to have been murdered, possibly due to his political intrigue. He also wrote, among much else, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, a play based on the legend of Faust, but without the final redemption of the protagonist in the legendary devil's pact.

Other poets have written rebuttals (more or less) to "The Passionate Shepherd" over the decades and I now question whether Marlowe was writing tongue in cheek in any case ---

Words, words, words--- we cannot really know what any of us is saying. How disappointed we'd be if we were certain that we could---think of the illusions that would be lost --- the mysteries that feed the soul --- coincidence that convinces.

Giacomo Leopardi

Always dear to me was this lonely hill,
And this hedge, which from so much part
Of the ultimate horizon the view excludes.
But sitting and gazing, boundless
Spaces beyond that, and more than human
Silences and profoundest quiet
I in thoughts pretend to myself, where almost
The heart is overwhelmed. And as the wind
I hear rustle through these plants, I such
Infinite silence to this voice
Go on comparing: and come to mind the eternal
And the dead seasons, and the present
And the living, and the sound of it. So through this
Immensity is drowned my thoughts:
And being shipwrecked is sweet to me in this sea

1 comment:

  1. I love the Elizabethans. I think that age must have been very like our own in a lot of ways, though I'm not sure who our Shakespeare would be. I particularly love this line: "...In folly ripe, in reason rotten." Thanks for posting an old favorite. (And a new poet to explore as well in Leopardi.)