SONNET Earl of Surrey – Love that doth reign and live within my thoughts

Love that doth reign and live within my thought
And built his seat within my captive breast,
Clad in arms wherein with me he fought,
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest.
But she that taught me love and suffer pain,
My doubtful hope and eke my hot desire
With shamefaced look to shadow and refrain,
Her smiling grace converteth straight to ire.
And coward Love, then, to the heart apace
Taketh his flight, where he doth lurk and ‘plain,
His purpose lost, and dare not show his face.
For my lord’s guilt thus faultless bide I pain,
Yet from my lord shall not my foot remove,–
Sweet is the death that taketh end by love.

The poem is translated from Petrach, but not litteraly.
Rhyme scheme:

The first quatrain, chanted:

¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯
Love, that doth reign and live within my thought.

˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯
And built his seat within my capitive breast.

¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯
Clad in the arms wherein with me he fought.

¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest

Explanation of this poem:

First, you have to realize that love is (made human, a character) in the poem.

It is the lord that builds his seat (his thrown) in the speakers breast. The speaker is saying that he/she is subservient to love and that this love is so profound that it shows visibly in his/her person (perhaps, as indicated by others, in a blush).

The object of the speaker’s desires sees this on his/her face, and she rejects that love. Then love removes itself from its visible manifestation on the speaker’s face and hides in his/her heart. The speaker is hurt by this love, but he/she will not show it.

The poem ends by stating that death brought on by love is sweet. This is all put into martial (military) language.

This is used to show the conflict that love creates within the speaker. Reign, seat (in this context), captive, coward, lord, and banner all add to the idea that the speaker is a kind of soldier being lead by love, and though it may cause him/her pain and though it may bring about his/her death, the speaker won’t stop to love.


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