Can anyone discuss briefly the literary devices present in "The Nymph's Reply"?

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sfwriter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Raleigh's artistry to easy to identify.  Though perhaps not of the first order of poets as Christopher Marlowe was (whose poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" Raleigh was answering) he was certainly a very accomplished, refined, and creative poet.  The regularity of the meter, the cleverness of the rhymes, and the compact way in which the "Answer" is constructed and manages to put in so many images and actual "answers" to Marlowe's poem shows that Raleigh was a master of the craft of poem-making.  The fact, too, that Raleigh can mirror Marlowe's poem so perfectly, by using similar images and comparable metaphors, is an intellectual feat.  But even more impressive than these feats of artistry is his satiric voice. 

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. (lns 16-20)

Raleigh is able to take Marlowe's simple and sincere pastoral poem and, through the power of suggestion, turn it into a satirical masterpiece.  In this he is exercising his mastery over an eternal -- one might even say permanent -- form (pastoral poetry is very old indeed, at least 1700 years old in Raleigh's time) and showing his ability to address universal themes.  The "nymph" ruefully answering the romantic shepherd is indeed an authentic human voice, showing Raleigh's preference for the reality governing human relationships over Marlowe's flights of fancy. 

Read the study guide:
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

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