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Shakespeare Sonnet 47: "Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took"

Updated on December 12, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The true writer of the Shakespeare works
The true writer of the Shakespeare works | Source


In Shakespeare Sonnet 47, the speaker is dramatizing the unity that exists between the “heart” and “eye” of the speaker/artist. He has struggled to understand the nature of this union, and he now realizes to the fullest its vital importance for his art.

This union constitutes a quality that not only satisfies the balance and harmony of the artist, but it also enhances and deepens the perceptions and sensibilities of the creative artist.

The deepening of the ability to perceive and then feel furthers the ability of the artist in his role as craftsman. Not only is he creatively innovative, but he is also able to organize and mold his art in the best possible ways.

Reading: Sonnet 47

First Quatrain: “Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took”

In sonnet 46, the speaker began by complaining that his “eye” and his “heart” were struggling against each other. But he had found their unity by the end of the sonnet, and now in sonnet 47, he continues to dramatize the happy advantage of the unity of eye and heart.

Because the speaker’s feeling and vision are now cooperating, they are each doing “good turns now unto the other.”

Sometimes the speaker desires to look at his creations, and sometimes he desires merely to feel.

The speaker now begins his thought in the first quatrain but then continues before it finishes in the second quatrain.

Second Quatrain: “With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast”

When the speaker desires to see with his eye or feel with his heart, his sensibilities no longer clash but invite each other to enjoy the fruits of each other’s labor.

Sometimes the speaker's “eye” becomes “famish’d,” and he needs to look at his creations, and at other times, his “heart” is “smother[ed]” “with sighs.” He needs then simply to bask in the fullness of his love and emotion.

The speaker's eye is nourished by “love’s picture” and then “to the painted banquet” his eye invites his heart. And at other times, “mine eye is my heart’s guest.” They both now “share thoughts of love.”

Third Quatrain: “So, either by thy picture or my love”

The blissful unity between “eye” and “heart” results in his love being artistically captured, an act which thus preserves for the speaker “thy picture or my love.”

The speaker's creations remain with him, and even if his muse roves far from him, his inspirational urges cannot range farther than his thoughts.

And through the speaker's poems, “I am still with them and they with thee.” He is, therefore, never without his love, his muse, his inspiration.

Through the speaker's eye and heart working in tandem, his creations capture all that is vital to him. Their unity provides him a home from where he never need stray.

The speaker's artistic wholesomeness provides material for his physical and mental, and even spiritual, vitality.

The Couplet: “Or, if they sleep, thy picture in my sight”

Even if the speaker's physical eye and heart “sleep” or take a hiatus from creativity, he still possesses the image of the muse that continues to feed his fancy or which, “Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight.”

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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