A Portrait of Love In Its Early Stages

By Robert Pinsky on 4.16.09

A sophisticated artist making an elegant version of naivete: lines that could be spoken by a well-attired and delicately made-up porcelain shepherd. (In fact Sidney uses a sonnet version of this poem in his pastoral narrative “Arcadia.”) The artful simplicity successfully evokes the simultaneous play-acting and sincerity that can characterize love in its early stages.

Sidney gives his young high-class shepherdess a tranquil confidence, lightened by effervescence. The deft play with whose-heart-is-whose has a perfectly equivalent bubbliness in the figures of sound, such as the rhyme on “given driven.”

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My true love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for another giv’n.
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss:
There never was a better bargain driv’n.
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
     His heart in me keeps him and me 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.
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

Making an anthology with different categories is fun, and the possibilities are endless. Putting together this poem with—for example—Milton’s “Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint” (page 213 of Essential Pleasures) and Ann Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (page 177) creates a group of poems worth comparing on the subject of marriage. And for contrast, Katherine Philips’ argument against “A Married State” (page 461) with its concluding comparison of marriage to “leading apes in hell.”  Philips makes Alan Dugan’s “Love Song: I and Thou” (page 189) practically a valentine.

topics: Essential Pleasures