‘Sonnet 31,’ also known as ‘Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts’ is number thirty-one of one hundred fifty-four sonnets that Shakespeare wrote over his lifetime. It is part of the Fair Youth sequence of sonnets (numbers one through one hundred twenty-six). This particular poem discusses themes of love, love lost and love gained. The speaker speaks reverentially about the Fair Youth and his capacity to give and receive love.
This poem, like all others within the 126 line sequence of Fair Youth poems, is directed towards the Fair Youth. This young man is now in possession of all the love that the speaker was meant to receive from and give to other lovers. The speaker asserts, metaphorically, that he thought many different people he used to love were dead. Now, he realizes, they have simply gone to reside within the Fair Youth’s heart.
‘Sonnet 31’ by William Shakespeare is a fourteen-line sonnet that is structured in the form known as a “Shakespearean” or English sonnet. The poem is made up of three quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one concluding couplet, or set of two rhyming lines. They follow a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and are written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed and the second stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM.
As is common in Shakespeare’s poems, the last two lines are a rhyming pair, known as a couplet. They often bring with them a turn or volta in the poem. They’re sometimes used to answer a question posed in the previous twelve lines, shift the perspective, or even change speakers.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 31’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, metaphor, and enjambment. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “ love” and “love’s loving” in line three and “love” and “live” in line nine.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as that between lines five, six, and seven.
A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things that does not use “like” or “as” is also present in the text. When using this technique a poet is saying that one thing is another thing, they aren’t just similar. There is a good example at the beginning of the third quatrain. The speaker refers to the youth as a grave in which all the speaker’s past loves are now buried.
Thy bosom is endearèd with all hearts
Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead;
And there reigns love, and all love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought burièd.
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 31,’ the speaker begins by picking up on a theme that was alluded to at the end of ‘Sonnet 30,’ the poem that came directly before this one in Shakespeare’s series of 154 sonnets.
Shakespeare directed these lines to the Fair Youth. He tells him, very clearly, that he has all the love that used to belong to the speaker. Everyone who used to love the speaker now loves the Fair Youth. His “bosom is endearèd with all hearts”. These people who love him were seemingly dead to the speaker until he realized they had just turned their love to someone else. In the youth’s heart love is in charge. It “reigns”.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things removed that hidden in thee lie.
In the second quatrain of ‘Sonnet 31,’ the speaker asks, rhetorically, about the number of tears that he has shed for those he supposed were dead. Now, he realizes, they weren’t dead. They had just turned their attention to someone else. They have gone to hide in the youth’s heart instead.
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give;
That due of many now is thine alone.
Their images I loved I view in thee,
And thou, all they, hast all the all of me
In the last quatrain, the speaker uses a metaphor to describe the youth’s heart. It is a grave “Where buried love doth lie”. He is like a grave where dead lovers come alive again”. They are “Hung,” or decorated, with the “trophies of” the speaker’s “lover’s gone”. The lovers are covered in their lost mementos, things which were once meaningful to the speaker. They have given their love, which they should’ve received from the speaker to the youth. The love that the speaker should’ve given now belongs to the youth.
The speaker concludes the poem by saying that he can now see the lovers inside the Fair Youth. He is in possession of all those the speaker ever loved as well as all the love that he should’ve given these lovers and that which they used to give him.