Friday, September 13, 2013

Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh led busy, ambitious lives in the bustle of Queen Elizabeth I's London. Nonetheless both men were influenced by the pastoral tradition, which idealized the simple lives of shepherds in a rural setting. Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is considered one of the greatest pastoral poems ever written. "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" has also inspired many responses from other poets, from Marlowe's time to the twentieth century. The most famous response to the poem, is Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd," written in 1600. Pastoral poems are not meant to be realistic. They exaggerate rural pleasures and the innocence of country people living in harmony with nature. Implied in this celebration of the "natural life" is a criticism of the worldly pursuit of fame and fortune to which most aristocratic readers and writers of the time were devoted. By promoting an ideal of humble contentment in nature, pastoral poems reveal the dissatisfaction of urban people who yearn for the lost innocence of a simpler time or place.

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