poetry in motion?…


So I have, on occasion, posted class assignments that amuse me in some particular way.  This will be no different.  This past semester, as part of one of our assignments, I selected a “bonus” question to answer.  This was part of a series of essay questions in our British Lit class.  I do not want to give too much away to possible future students in this particular class, but I had fun with it and just have to share.

The question in question asked that one examine two poems, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe, and “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepard” by Sir Walter Raleigh.  Raleigh’s poem was a poetic response to Marlowe’s original work.  The question asked us to analyze why Raleigh’s nymph responded to Marlowe’s shepherd in the manner that “she” did.  Essentially, why does Raleigh’s nymph turn Marlowe’s shepherd down.  Both of these poems may be viewed side by side here (Thank you to Louisiana Tech for posting the two together).  That saves me from copying and pasting.

About the time I had gotten to this question, I was just itching to do something a little different.  Since our instructions labeld this question as a “special creative question,” I figured that I had some latitude with which to cause trouble.  Eventually I decided that, since the proposition and the reply were in the form of a poem, so should my answer be as well.  Kinda like Jeopardy for the 16th century.  “You must answer in the form a a poem.”  Now I am far from an English major or a poet, but I just had to give it a try and have a little fun!  Almost immediately I discovered that it would be rather difficult to incorporate in-line citations of source material (required) into the flow of a poem without screwing up the rhythm.  I didn’t really think of that until I set down to do it.  For better or worse, by this point I was committed to giving it a shot.  What follows is the result.  It does occur to me that I could further edit to give it an older style and feel, but this was my result within the time allotted:

“Matthew’s Reply to the Professor”

Ralegh replied to Marlow’s prose,

with harsh realism that he well knows.

He knows full well that reality,

requires much more than frivolity.


Springs do fade and turn to fall,

and worldly cares come to all.

He says that romantic revelry,

is not wise without contingency.


He says, “thy shoes, thy bed of roses,”

are wasteful and impractical poses (Ralegh,1024).

And when he says, “In folly ripe,”

he means one cannot live on hype (Ralegh,1024).


Ralegh thinks that life’s travail,

cannot be solved by posies pale.

He said, in part, “if age no need,”

he’d think more kindly on Marlow’s plea (Ralegh,1025).


Alas, Ralegh said, youth can’t last,

so on Marlow’s offer, he’d have to pass.

Though spoken prettily all and all,

one cannot survive on gowns and gall.


And so we see, if we read,

Sir Walter’s reply to Marlow’s plea.

That, if it were that he were she,

he’d need more than mere dreamery.


I feel like I sprained my iambic pentameter somewhere during the process, but I was pretty pleased to have fit some citations in there without totally interrupting things.  The end result?  I laughed my ass off for a few minutes.  I do happen to be very easily amused, it doesn’t take much.  Fortunately, my professor was amused enough to slap an A on the overall paper and claimed that he enjoyed it.  I’ll always take an A as positive proof of a professor’s sincerity.

Works Cited (in my reply, at any rate)

Marlowe, Christopher. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Volume B. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 1126. Print. 3 vols.

Ralegh, Sir Walter. “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepard.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Volume B. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 1024-1025. Print. 3 vols.


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