How is the nightingale (Philomel) in "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" by Sir Walter Raleigh related to the nightingale of Keats's ''Ode to a Nightingale''? What is the relationship of the two...

How is the nightingale (Philomel) in "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" by Sir Walter Raleigh related to the nightingale of Keats's ''Ode to a Nightingale''? What is the relationship of the two poems to the pastoral? 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Of these two poems, "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" by Sir Walter Raleigh is written in the genre of a pastoral, including a setting in the countryside and an idyllic romantic theme, and is populated with idealized shepherds and such. Although Keats' ''Ode to a Nightingale'' references the pastoral, it is as a vision brought on by the bird's song, not as a setting for the poem as a whole. 

Both poems reference the Greek myth of the nightingale. In the story, Procne married the King Tereus. Tereus raped Procne's sister Philomela and then cut out Philomela's tingue so that Philomela could not tell the story of the rape. Philomela wove the story into a tapestry, and the sisters took their revenge on Tereus by chopping up his son Itys and serving him to Tereus for dinner. The gods transform them all into birds. In Ovid, the source of Raleigh's reference, Philomela becomes a nightingale and Procne a swallow and Tereus a hawk.

In both poems, the nightingale is invoked for the beauty of its song, rather than any detailed evocation of the myth. There is no real direct relationship between the two poems. Although they both mention nightingales and mortality, they do so in rather different ways.

Raleigh's poem answers Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love", which begins:

Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove ...

Marlowe argues that the woman should yield to him because of the shortness of life and Raleigh's Nymph responds that the shortness of life is precisely why she will not yield to him. Both poems are charming and amorous in tone. Keats' poem, on the other hand, is melancholic as he himself was dying of tuberculosis and was "half in love with easeful Death", but still admires the beauty of the nightingales's song and of the arts as a bringing into life a beauty that can bring moments of joy and peace despite mortality.

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