Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
The Nymph’s Reply
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
IF 1 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.
But Time drives flocks from field to fold;        5
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields:        10
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring but sorrow’s fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither—soon forgotten,        15
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.        20
But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need.
Then those delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.
Note 1. This Reply to Marlowe’s ditty appeared in England’s Helicon, 1600, signed “Ignoto,” and the evidence that Raleigh wrote it is contained in a famous passage in the Complete Angler: “As I left this place, and entered into the next field, a second pleasure entertained me. ’Twas a handsome milkmaid, that had not yet attained so much age and wisdom as to load her mind with any fears of many things that will never be, as too many men too often do; but she cast away all care, and sung like a nightingale; her voice was good, and the ditty fitted for it; it was that smooth song which was made by Kit Marlowe, now at least fifty years ago; and the milkmaid’s mother sung an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days.” In the second edition of the Angler Walton inserted—probably from a broad-sheet—an extra penultimate stanza in both Song and Reply. [back]

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