Irony behind beuatiful image in Pastoral Poetry

As we learn from the lecture, Pastoral poetry basically describe the pleasure of rural life; poets try to draw beautiful image of nature. However, I found that there are significant negative aspect behind its beautiful and peaceful picture even in traditional pastoral poetry.We learned that “The Passionate Shepherd to his love” is a pastoral poetry written in 1599 the period of traditional pastoral poetry. This poem sounds sweet and encourages us to draw a beautiful picture of nature but, behind this picture, it has some significant ironies. Shepherd in this poem provide his love only the beautiful aspect of nature that avoid concerning the negative aspect. In rainy day or winter, they cannot enjoy the pleasure of nature Shepherd mentioned. It also shows that Shepherd is not interested in having long-run relationship with his love; he is maybe interested in having sexual relationship.Thus there are more meanings and ironies behind each of shepherd’s sweet voice.

Furthermore, just one year after “The Passionate Shepherd to his love” was written, Walter Raleigh replied to Christopher Marlowe with a poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd“. Raleigh’s poem is also treated as a pastoral poetry and, it is also written in traditional pastoral period. Raleigh knew that shepherd’s desire for sexual love and replied.

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd
by Sir Walter Raleigh

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 complain 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 bed 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 might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

As we read the poem, It is not difficult to find the fact that it does not describe the positive side of rural life; Raleigh even reverses his images into negative ones such as rocks grow cold, fields yield to the harvest, rivers rage and birds complain of winter. Even thought it is written in traditional pastoral period, Raleigh focus more on reality than dreamy image of life. I found that this is an interesting point to find irony behind traditional pastoral poetry. by looking at the poem in different aspect, we can appreciate the poem much more profoundly.


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