The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Questions and Answers
by Christopher Marlowe

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In what way is "The Nymph's Reply" an expression of the philosophy of tempus fugit, or "time flies"?

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The philosophy of tempus fugit really begins to emerge in the third stanza of "The Nymph's Reply." In this stanza, the speaker (taking the character of the nymph who is being pursued) notes that "flowers do fade." This is a reflection upon that most beautiful moment in a plant's life cycle during which a flower emerges; however, this is short-lived, as all too quickly, the flower begins to lose its brilliance of color and then slowly succumbs to death.

This is symbolic of the shepherd's romantic pursuit. Even if a beautiful flower emerges from a love affair, the nymph says that it will be short-lived and is destined to fade and die. She notes that the shepherd's tongue made of "honey" (or his sweet words) is destined to lead to her sorrow eventually, just as spring turns into the decay (or sorrow) of fall. Tempus fugit.

Stanza four examines Marlow's promises made to the nymph in "The Passionate Shepherd"; the nymph notes...

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