Sir Philip Sidney

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Interpretation of "My True-love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney

Summary:

"My True-love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney expresses a mutual exchange of hearts between lovers, symbolizing deep emotional and physical connection. The poem illustrates a perfect, balanced relationship where both partners are equally devoted and their hearts are inextricably linked, creating an idealized vision of love characterized by reciprocity and harmony.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does the 8th line in "My True-love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney mean?

In this poem, a female speaker describes the intense bond she feels with and for a beloved male. The poem reiterates the basic idea that the lovers have exchanged hearts: she possesses his heart and he possesses hers. In light 8, the speaker asserts that she cherishes her beloved’s heart because it “bides” (that is, abides) inside her. In other words, she cherishes his heart because it has metaphorically become her own heart. To love him is to love herself; to love herself is to love him.  Likewise, for the male, to love her is to love himself; to love himself is to love her. The highly repetitive language of the poem reinforces the idea that there is very little difference now between the lover and her beloved. The word “heart” appears eight times in 14 lines. The similar-sounding word “hurt” appears an additional three times. Such repetition helps to chief idea of the poem as a whole.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

You may notice that the poem's title is preceded by the phrase "Song from Arcadia." Arcadia refers to a mythological pastoral paradise or utopia in which people live in harmony with nature. The speaker appears to be a female who is describing her romantic love for a particular man in her life. Perhaps she feels that their love must make of their lives an Arcadia. In the first eight lines, she explains that they have "exchange[d]" hearts and that they made a good bargain; he keeps her heart, and she keeps his, figuratively, as she declares that his heart "bides" in her. In the final six lines, she seems to describe the wounds that prompted the two people to "exchange" hearts in the first place. His heart was wounded by love of her, and her heart was wounded by his wounding (as she loved him), and so they both were "equal hurt" and sought to remedy their pain and find their "bliss" by trading their wounded hearts. Of course, they do not actually trade hearts, but hearts function as metonyms for, perhaps, an exchange of true lovers' vows and the origins of a romantic relationship.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

This poem is a rather simple poem where the author expresses a romantic sentiment:  I have given my heart to my love, and they have given me theirs, and because of this, we are both happier.  He states that this exchange was done willingly, and "there was never a better bargain driven."  In other words, we wanted to give each other our hearts, and it was a wonderful bargain because we both got something wonderful that we wanted.  He goes on to say that his love's heart keeps him and his love one, and his heart guides and supports his love.  He says that they both cherish each other's hearts:

"He loves my heart, for once it was his own/I cherish his, because in me it bides."

The message behind this poem is that giving your heart to someone else, and getting theirs in return is a beautiful, lovely thing, and that it makes your life better.  It is nice to have someone who cherishes your heart and life, and takes good care of it.  I hope this explanation helps a bit.  Good luck!

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

Sidney included this poem in his incredibly popular proto-novel, Arcadia. A shepherdess sings this to a beloved shepherd, and it is thus a beautiful pastoral interlude. The pastoral became a favored Elizabethan tradition.

With Edmund Spenser, Sidney was one of the two most important Elizabethan sonnet writers prior to Shakespeare. All three were notable for their sonnet cycles—a collection of loosely connected sonnets. While this poem occurs in Arcadia, it uses the sonnet conventions first associated with Shakespeare and later called the Shakespearean sonnet. Sidney and Spenser not only popularized the genre but adapted it somewhat to the English, as opposed to Italian, language and notably used iambic pentameter (ten-syllable lines). Because it can be harder to rhyme in English than in a Romance language, the rhyme scheme is more varied (abab cdcd efef gg). Similarly, the volta or turning point in the sonnet occurs at the couplet, rather than after line 8 in an Italian sonnet. As such, the poem proceeds through three sentences contained in a quatrain of four lines, with a final resolution in the last two lines.

Additional uses of sonnet conventions include the idea of love at first sight and love based in compassion or pity:

His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart

The other convention concerns the sonnet conceit, or guiding metaphor. In this case, that is the idea of exchange. Each lover gives to the other in equal measure. Stylistically, Sidney uses rhetorical balance in these lines to reflect that balanced mutuality:

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;

The sonnet also ends where it begins with the repeated line: "My true love hath my heart, and I have his," suggesting a circularity or mutuality in the love.

Sidney's sophistication here as well as in his other sonnets likely inspired Shakespeare and other later Elizabethans to explore the expressive power of this lyric genre.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

"My True Love Hath My Heart" by Philip Sidney uses the literary device of metonymy. Metonymy is when someone writes about something, but does not use its name to describe it—instead he/she uses something associated with it.

For example, when we say we could eat the whole plate (of cake), we are not referring to eating a plate, but the food on it.

For this poem, the metaphor I find is that the heart represents love. The metaphor is that the heart is said it is "given" like a tangible item, when it really refers to sharing an emotion, something intangible.

Each lover has shared his/her heart (love) with the other, and the other, in turn, has done the same. "He loves my heart for once it was his own." So the two have shared their love for one another. In doing so, the love has altered, become something new in combining the two separate loves into one.

The exchange of love, represented by the heart, is shared between these two, but it's hard to tell where one person's heart stops and the other person's heart begins. They become like two hearts in the same chest.

The best way for me to make sense of this is to suggest that when one gives his/her heart to the other, they become inseparable: not physically, but metaphysically. The essence of one joins with the essence of the other and they cannot be distinguished from each other any longer.

When Elizabethan's married they believed that at that moment, they were inseparable forever. This is why in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Hamlet's mother is committing incest by marrying her brother-in-law: for within Gertrude there still resides a part of her dead husband (Old Hamlet)...therefore, Old Hamlet is sleeping with his brother (Claudius) when Gertrude sleeps with Claudius.

As Sidney lived at the same time as Shakespeare—during the Elizabethan period—I believe he would also have been influenced by Elizabethan perceptions: it makes sense to find this kind of "imagery" is used in Sidney's poem.

The idea of oneness guarantees that each person will do all he/she can to make the other happy, for each has a part of the other's heart, the other's love. And hurting the other would, in fact, hurt him-/herself.

Like a house of mirrors—it is a little hard to follow. Hope this helps.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

Sir Philip Sidney's poem "My True Love Hath My Heart" is written in iambic pentameter. (This is the rhythm.) This means that there are ten syllables per line, and that the stress rests on every other syllable.

This poetic form was popular in Shakespeare's time; this form of poem is, in fact, known as a Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnet.

A sonnet is a poetic form of fourteen lines, with a prescribed rhyme scheme. A rhyme scheme is a pattern of rhyme: a rhyme is created with the last word of each line. Each sound is given a letter that represents one sound. When a new sound is presented, a new letter is assigned to it.

The rhyme scheme in this sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. This means that the last word in line one rhymes with the last word in line three. Line two has a different end rhyme, so a new letter (B) is assigned to that sound. This process of rhyme is repeated until the writer reaches the thirteenth and fourteenth lines: these lines rhyme with each other; this is called a rhyming couplet.

Lines five and seven (ending with "one" and "own") present what is called "near rhyme." The last words of each line sound somewhat alike, but this is not an example of "pure rhyme" (which is found in lines two and four, "giv'n" and "driv'n").

Other sonnet forms are Petrarchan, or Italian, and Spenserian. All sonnets are fourteen lines with a specific rhyme scheme.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the interpretation of "My True Love Hath My Heart" by Sir Philip Sidney?

Meter is defined in scansion as the rhythm and the number of repeating patterns. A question about meter excludes structure and rhyme scheme. The meter of Sydney's "My True-Love Hath My Heart" is a classic iambic ( ^ / ) pentameter (five feet of iambs) with elision and proparalepsis adding variation. Line one shows the meter clearly: "My^ true' / -love^ hath' / my^ heart', / and^ I' / have^ his'." Sydney wrote this in a very rhythmic meter; one can almost sing along while reading it if a tune comes to mind. Line two has the first instance of elision. Elision is defined as the omission of a vowel, a consonant, or a syllable in pronunciation of one or more words. The elision in line two occurs in the word "given." Normally, it would be pronounced "gi' -ven^". However when the vowel e in the second syllable is elided the pronunciation changes to "giv'n." It is now pronounced as a single syllable instead of two and fits the meter as the stressed syllable of the final iamb. "By^ just' / ex^ -change' / one^ for' / the^ o' / -ther^ given'."Sydney chose not to illustrate the elision as some authors do (giv'n), but it is elided anyway.

Some might view an alternative scansion to the meter as scanning line two with an incomplete sixth foot. While many poets choose to use incomplete final feet, the convention, which is called catalexis, only applies when an unstressed syllable is dropped from trochaic or dactylic feet. It is also normally used in a patterned meter (except perhaps in free verse) and not as a random line here or there. As a result of these two poetic conventions, elision and catalexis, the alternative scansion turns out not to be an alternative after all. Therefore the correct scansion is that "given" is ellided to "giv'n" and forms the stressed syllable of the final pentameter foot.

The second instance of elision is in line four and is explained the same as line two is: "driven" in the final pentameter foot is elided to "driv'n" to form the final stressed syllable: "There ne' / -ver was' / a bar' / -gain bet' / -ter driven'," with "driven" scanned as "driv'n." In line nine, Sidney uses a technique opposite to elision: he emphasizes a syllable in an alternate pronunciation to the usual one by adding adding a syllable to the end of a word in a technique called proparalepsis. The word "received" may be pronounced as either re^ceived' or re^ceiv^ed^, thus creating three syllables out of a usual two. As an illustration, the same technique of proparalepsis is applied to beloved, and we hear it around Valentine's Day. With proparalepsis, Sidney stretches "receivèd' to three syllables, thus composing five full pentameter feet:  "His^ heart' / his^ wound' / re^ -ceiv' / -èd' from' / my^ sight';".

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on