My True Love Hath My Heart by Sir Philip Sidney
“My True Love Hath My Heart” appears in Sir Philip Sidney’s most ambitious work The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, simply known as the Arcadia. This song from Arcadia is written from the perspective of a woman. She talks about her romantic relationship with particular emphasis on “heart”. This sonnet is all about how two lovers share each other’s feelings and make their relationship a blissful adventure. There are ups and downs, highs and lows. Still, in the end, they come up with an intricately woven relationship that cannot either be torn or separated.
- Read the full text of “My True Love Hath My Heart” below:
My True Love Hath My Heart by Sir Philip Sidney My true-love hath my heart and I have his, By just exchange one for the other given: I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss; There never was a bargain better driven. His heart in me keeps me and him in one; My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides: He loves my heart, for once it was his own; I cherish his because in me it bides. His heart his wound received from my sight; My heart was wounded with his wounded heart; For as from me on him his hurt did light, So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart: Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss, My true love hath my heart and I have his. - from Arcadia (1593)
The sonnet “My True Love Hath My Heart” describes how two lovers share their hearts in the very first line. They have given each other their complete feelings by just a simple exchange. The speaker holds his lover’s heart dear, so does her beloved. According to her, no such bargain is better than theirs as it is a selfless act of love. Her lover’s heart keeps their singular emotions in one place. Whereas, her heart guides his thoughts and senses. He loves her heart as if it was his own. The speaker cherishes his heart as within her it bides. She goes on to describe how their hearts were wounded due to some complications in the relationship. In the end, she affirms that by sharing equal pain they are now in complete bliss.
Through the title “My True Love Hath My Heart”, Sidney refers to how two lovers share feelings in a relationship. It is like sharing hearts with one another. One keeps the other as a form of gift that she cherishes throughout her life. While the other nourishes his lover’s heart as it guides his mind. In this way, without sharing their hearts physically, they can feel like a singular identity. Their thoughts and emotions are tied. If one’s heart pains, the other can easily sense it. She can heal it thereafter. In this way, Sidney describes how a complete state of bliss can be achieved in a relationship by sharing equal pain, feelings, and most importantly love.
Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter
This poem is written in sonnet form. It appears in the Arcadia as a song. Sidney wrote this sonnet from a woman’s point of view. His poetic persona aptly encompasses the feelings and emotions of a lover who is mindful of her lover’s pain. Besides, the poet makes use of the Shakespearean sonnet form. It means there are four quatrains and a concluding couplet. Throughout this poem, the poet describes how they share their hearts. In the last two lines, he presents how they are completely happy by this selfless change.
As this sonnet follows the English sonnet form, there are four quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end. Each quatrain is written in the ABAB rhyme scheme. The overall rhyming scheme of the poem is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. There is only one instance of slant rhyme. It occurs in “one” and “own”. These words loosely rhyme.
This poem is composed in iambic pentameter. It means there are five iambic feet per line. In an iambic foot, an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. For example, the foot “My true” is iambic. Let’s have a look at the scansion of the sonnet in order to understand the overall metrical scheme.
My true/-love hath/ my heart/ and I/ have his,
By just/ ex-change/ one for/ the o/-ther given:
I hold/ his dear,/ and mine/ he can/-not miss;
There ne/-ver was/ a bar/-gain bet/-ter driven.
His heart/ in me/ keeps me/ and him/ in one;
My heart/ in him/ his thoughts/ and sen/-ses guides:
He loves/ my heart,/ for once/ it was/ his own;
I che/-rish his/ be-cause/ in me/ it bides.
His heart/ his wound/ re-ceiv/-ed from/ my sight;
My heart/ was wound/-ed with/ his wound/-ed heart;
For as/ from me/ on him/ his hurt/ did light,
So still,/ me-thought,/ in me/ his hurt/ did smart:
Both e/-qual hurt,/ in this/ change sought/ our bliss,
My true/ love hath/ my heart/ and I/ have his.
Literary Devices & Figurative Language
In “My True Love Hath My Heart”, Sidney uses the following literary devices:
- Metaphor: In this sonnet, “heart” is a metaphor for love. Here, the speaker talks about sharing his emotions and feelings with her lover. She also describes their relationship as a “bargain” of equal emotions.
- Alliteration: It occurs in “hold his”, “bargain better”, “His heart”, “him his hurt”, “So still”, etc.
- Repetition: Sidney uses a number of repetitions. It is meant for creating a resonance of ideas alongside creating internal rhyming. Besides, the poet repeats the first line in the end. It is an example of a refrain.
- Personification: In this piece, Sidney personifies the “heart”. It occurs in “His heart in me keeps me and him in one;/ My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides”.
- Paradox: It occurs in the line “Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss”. Here, the speaker says by sharing equal pain, they have reached a state of perfect happiness.
Line-by-Line Analysis & Explanation
My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
The first line of this quatrain is used as the title as other conventional sonnets. Here, Sidney’s poetic persona refers to her partner as her “true-love”. The words “true” and “love” are combined together in order to hint at the most important quality of an ideal relationship, truthfulness.
Sidney’s speaker talks about a sense of fulfillment when she says his lover has her heart and she has his lover’s. Here, the term “heart” is used in its metaphorical sense. Heart, the source of love and trust, is exchanged to reveal how true they are to each other.
They have “just” exchanged their hearts. What does the term “just” mean here? This term hints at the balanced nature of their relationship. They have balanced each other by sharing equal feelings.
The speaker holds his heart as a precious gift. She is quite confident that her lover would not fail hers. The term “miss” here means “to fail someone”. Furthermore, using the hyperbolic expression “There never was a bargain better driven”, she compares their relationship to an equitable bargain. In business, two parties bargain for personal profit. Whereas, they have exchanged their feelings selflessly. In this way, their “bargain” is driven by a far greater feeling, love.
His heart in me keeps me and him in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I cherish his because in me it bides.
In the second quatrain, Sidney presents the idea of spiritual fulfillment. The speaker says her lover’s heart that is now hers fuses them together. As the heart she shares now was her lover’s, now their feelings are amalgamated. The essence of singularity is in their hearts.
While her heart that resides with her lover acts as a guide. His thoughts and senses are now in control of his beloved. It is not a kind of slavery. Rather, it is a form of respect that a lover has for his beloved. He feels fulfilled when his lover accepts his thoughts and controls excess passion in his heart. Ultimately, she is helping him to be more sensible and cautious.
In the following lines, the speaker describes how they love each other. Her beloved loves her heart as if it was his own. While she cherishes his heart as it stays within her. The former does not feel like he is sharing an alien heart. It has become part of his body after he fell in love with her. While the speaker was eagerly waiting for that moment when she would get his complete devotion. As she has it now, she feels complete.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart:
In this quatrain, Sidney’s poetic persona hints at the complications in their relationship. Before she fell in love with her man, her attractive eyes wounded his heart. It is the wound of unrequited love.
His pain also wounded her heart. As she has his heart with her, she can feel the pain that he felt before. Readers can find a repetition of the term “wounded” in the second line of this section. It is meant for the sake of emphasis.
Furthermore, the speaker says that when she was unhappy, it made her lover sad. Whenever her heart ached, the same happened with him. From her “wounded heart” this pain lighted on his heart. Therefore, she thinks that his heart is still suffering from the pangs of the past.
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
In the final couplet, Sidney digresses from the topic of heartache. He describes their painful lore in order to portray how closely they are attached to one another. One can easily feel the buried pain in the other’s heart. It is love that makes one feel this way.
However, in these lines, the speaker clarifies the fact that they are equally hurt. As their love for each other is equal, so is their pain. Like they have shared their true feelings, they have also exchanged their pain in order to seek bliss. It means by sharing the load of pain, they have achieved a state of pure joy and fulfillment.
The last line of this stanza is a refrain. It emphasizes the speaker’s pleasure in exchanging her heart with her lover’s.
The sonnet “My True Love Hath My Heart” is written by the English poet Sir Philip Sidney. He is one of the best-known literary figures of the Elizabethan era. This song appears in his best-known pastoral romance in prose, Arcadia. It was first published by Fulke Greville in 1590. Later, the Countess of Pembroke, Sidney’s sister, published a version in 1593. Sidney began writing this piece in the late 1570s. By writing it, he intended to entertain his sister. Arcadia is a prose romance that encompasses several stories. In the sonnet “My True Love Hath My Heart,” Sidney shares a story of a lover. Her satisfaction in complete devotion to her partner is portrayed here.
Questions & Answers
This sonnet can be described as a confession directly originating from a sense of satisfaction and completion in a speaker’s heart. She feels fulfilled as she is able to completely devote herself to her lover. It explores how the exchange of truthful emotions creates a homeostatic relationship between two souls.
In this line, the speaker describes how her lover’s heart keeps both their emotions in one place. This line hints at the sense of completion and singularity in her heart.
It is a sonnet written using the Shakespearean model. Sidney wrote this piece using the quatrain-couplet form and it is composed from a woman’s point of view.
The sonnet “My True Love Hath My Heart” was written in the 1570s when Sidney was in his twenties.
This poem taps on the themes of devotion, sharing of feelings, truthfulness, and heartache. It revolves around the idea of being true to one another in a relationship.
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- “When my play was with thee” by Rabindranath Tagore — This spiritual poem is about the devotion of a speaker to the almighty.
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- “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee — This poem describes the love between a father and his son.
- Full text of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590) — Explore Sidney’s widely acclaimed work, Arcadia.
- About Arcadia — Read how it acts as a source for Shakespeare’s King Lear.
- Life of Sir Philip Sidney — Learn about the poet’s life and works.
- About Philip Sidney & His Poems — Read more about the poet and explore his some of his best-known poems.