‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ is an example of an English sonnet — the form popularized by William Shakespeare — written by Sir Philip Sidney as part of one of his prose works. On the surface, the sonnet features a speaker proclaiming that they’ve exchanged hearts with their lover, using the image as a metaphor for their newfound but powerful love for one another.
In the context of Sidney’s ‘Arcadia,’ though, within which its set, the sonnet is a duplicitous tale used by a roughish price to trick a wife into thinking her husband has been unfaithful — a deception devised with the explicit purpose of wooing a woman he desires.
My True Love Hath My Heart Sir Philip SidneyMy 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.
Explore My True Love Hath My Heart
'My True Love Hath My Heart' by Sir Philip Sidney is a sonnet that illustrates through romantic imagery the moment two lovers fall head over heels for one another.
In ‘My True Love Hath My Heart,’ the speaker sings a love song to their lover. Proclaiming that they’ve both vowed to give the other their very heart and that such a bargain is just. As a result of their exchange of hearts, they both now guide the other in both body and mind.
The speaker then compares the moment of instantaneous love with that of receiving a wound and that both were wounded by love the moment they saw one another. The poem ends by reaffirming the equality of their wounds (or love) for one another and describes how out of it, they found bliss within the other.
Structure and Form
‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ is an English sonnet as it’s comprised of three quatrains and a concluding couplet. Its rhyme scheme, however, slightly deviates from the traditional rhyme scheme of an English sonnet because the couplet at the end actually rhymes with the first line. Making the rhyme scheme for Sidney’s poem ABAB CDCD EFEF AA instead of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ comes from one of Sir Philip Sidney’s most well-known works, a prose pastoral romance titled ‘The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia,‘ which is often shortened to just ‘Arcadia.’ Composed of five acts, the tragicomic narrative follows the heroic princes Pyrocles and Musidorus in their misadventures to woo the daughters — Pamela and Philoclea — of the Duke of Arcadia, Basilius.
Musidorus adopts the disguise of a shepherd named Dorus to get closer to Pamela, who is being watched closely by the Duke’s servant Dametas (along with his wife Miso and his daughter Mopsa). Attempting to get Pamela alone so they can elope, Dorus tricks each member of the family into leaving. When it comes time to distract Miso, he plays on her disdain for her husband by fibbing about him being unfaithful to her — describing a scene between Dametas and a woman named Charita.
According to Dorus, the latter sings this lyrical poem to the former as he sits with his head in her lap, making the sonnet an ironic pronouncement of love that’s rooted in a lie.
‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ uses a variety of literary devices to convey the deep connection between the two lovers. Sidney employs figurative language throughout, including metaphor when describing their exchange of hearts (“hath my heart and I have his”) and the ways it tangibly affects their actions/perspective (“My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides”).
The speaker’s description of their love as a fair negotiation between two parties (“never was a bargain better driven”) is also an example of a metaphor. Sidney also uses symbolism when the speaker describes their love as having wounded them (“His heart his wound received from my sight”), which could also be interpreted as an allusion to the Roman god of love, Cupid.
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 quatrain of ‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ opens with a lucidly confident assertion of love as the speaker (a shepherd girl named Charita) addresses the object of her desire. She declares the love is mutual (“hath my heart and I have his”) while also determining that the “exchange” of hearts is fair to both. To justify this, she proclaims that both of them hold the other in dear regard in line 3. The final line of the quatrain reaffirms the point made in line 2, comparing their exchange of love to a “bargain” being made between two people.
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.
The second quatrain continues with this motif of describing love as a metaphorical exchange of hearts. Its first line alludes to the fact that because the heart the speaker now holds within her was previously her lover’s, the two are intertwined (“me and him in one”). Conversely, the speaker’s heart is also now within her lover, which she claims helps guide both “his thoughts and senses.” The diction highlights the intoxicating effect of not just love but also desire and lust — echoing the poem’s literary context within Sidney’s ‘Arcadia.’
In line 3, it’s revealed that he loves the speaker because the heart inside her was once “his own” — once again basing their love upon a notion of ownership. Vice versa, in line 4, the speaker asserts that she cherishes his heart because in her, “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:
The final quatrain of ‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ introduces a new image to describe the love between the speaker and her lover. Comparing their exchange of hearts to being wounded by such profound emotion. The speaker explains that her lover received their wound “from my sight” — in other words, the moment he saw her, he was heartsick. Likewise, the speaker admits that she, too, “was wounded with his wounded heart,” again emphasizing an equitable exchange of feeling and pain between the two.
The image of being wounded by love calls to mind a possible allusion to Cupid and his arrows, firing his darts of passion at unsuspecting lovers. The quatrain’s final two lines underscore the instantaneous nature of their love — while also punning on the word “hurt” to echo the repetition of “heart.” The moment her lover was wounded by the sight of the speaker, she too was wounded by him (“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.
The ending couplet of ‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ reasserts some of the major themes of the poem. Firstly, the speaker emphasizes that the two lovers are “equal” in their hurt (alluding to the wounds mentioned in the third quatrain) and that it’s responsible for a “change” in both of them. Once more, Sidney uses one word to reflect two different meanings.
As “change” can refer to both a transformation via love’s power and the transaction of hearts. The final line of the sonnet reestablishes the point made in line one with only a little rephrasing, though the repetition of the rhyme from line one in the couplet accentuates the cyclical nature of the poem.
At its core and despite the context within ‘Arcadia,’ the poem is a profession of intense and empathetic love. The use of the metaphor comparing their feelings to a literal exchange of hearts only emphasizes the impossibly strong bond that’s been created between the two lovers.
Not necessarily, though the context lends the poem further layers of understanding. You don’t need to parse through all of Sidney’s narrative. Even just a cursory skim through the section dealing with the poem is enough to get the gist of its purpose in the text. Essentially, the narrative in the poem is used to deceive a woman into thinking her husband has been unfaithful, stricken by love for another woman.
The speaker of the poem is supposedly a maiden who has fallen in love with another. Though as it’s made known in ‘Arcadia,’ this woman is pure fiction and invented as part of a plot by prince Musidorus.
Here are a few other related Philip Sidney poems:
- ‘The Nightingale’ – a famous and often alluded-to-poem about the myth of Philomel as an illustration of agony.
- ‘Sonnet 1’ – a passionate poem also taken from his English sonnet sequence ‘Astrophil and Stella.’
- ‘Sonnet 31’ – is another sonnet that focuses on the ardent feelings Astrophil holds for Stella.