What is a romantic and what is a realist? Can a romantic and a realist ever have a relationship together? What are the factors that will bring them together or keep them apart? These are the questions that Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh have posed in their poems, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and the response to this poem "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." The shepherd is the romantic proposing his love to a nymph. His whole life, from the littlest thing to the biggest thing, is all he has to offer to her. To him, there is no difference with how small or big the offers are. He believes his heart and the feelings from his heart is what should matter the most to propose such love. He promises her his environment such as the land, the animals, etc. to try to persuade her how beautiful their life can be and what enjoyment they can attain from this together.
He tries to propose what beauty could be found and made with his resources "Thy belt of straw and ivy buds, / with coral clasps and amber studs." because it would be given from his heart. Marlowe, shows the shepherd as helplessly in love with the nymph, because he offers her so much without even thinking of what she might like or not like. Not once in the poem did the shepherd ask what she thought of his offers or his love. The nymph's reply to the shepherd consists of nothing but negativity and disappointment.
Raleigh describes the nymph as a realist. She is very skeptical of the shepherd's proposal. "If all the world and love were young/ And truth in every shepherd's tongue." It seems as if she believes the shepherd to be a liar or has experienced being lied to too many times. She makes it seem that all he has to offer is something that is not substantial. She seems very cold-hearted and unable to love. She does not have a problem expressing herself but it is the way she expresses herself that shows she can only express concrete feelings and not abstract ones.
"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." She can not see past the objects that he offers, which are his emotions of love. Who knows if these two can ever be together or if any romantic and realist can have a relationship? The shepherd and the nymph are looking for two different types of relationships. They have a lot in common such as the ability to love and having goals. The differences are in what they believe true love is, how they love, the way their lives are supposed to be spent and what their goals are. I think the shepherd sees the beauty of his offers and expects the nymph to see it his way. She on the other hand can not see past that or the reason why.
They say opposites do attract, but to what extent? In this case the shepherd will have to promise something more concrete than the abstract love he has to offer, which the nymph is not looking for. The shepherd proposes in the poem, "And I will make thee beds of roses/ And a thousand fragrant poises, / A cap of flowers, and a kirtle/ Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;" . She is not moved by this because her reply is, "Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy bed of roses, / thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies/ soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten-/in folly ripe, in season rotten." The nymph will have to find the positive things and not be so pessimistic toward the Shepherd and what he is willing to offer. I do not think there can be any compromises made to make this relationship work. It will have to be either the shepherd's way or the nymph's way. Love is strong but it will be hard to compromise all these objectives..