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Holy Sonnet XIV: Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God

John Donne

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batter my heart explanation
Added by: mike allen
)Here's my attempt to analize the poem, please forgive spelling and grammar, I'm writing quickly. My thoughts are in parenthasis)
Batter my heart, three personed God; (This refers to the Father, Son, And Holy Spirit)
for you as yet but (you haven't yet) knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; (the speaker )
that I may rise and stand (in other words:if I get too bold)
o'erthrow me (overthrow), and bend your force to break, blow burn, and make me new (notice that these words can be a metaphor for the making of pottery)
I, like a usurped town (an violent rebellion), to another due (personally I think that these three words were put there to keep the rhyme scheme)
Labor to admit You (try hard to believe in You) but oh, to no end; (self-explanitory)
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, (speaker should defend reason)
But is captive, and proves weak or untrue (he's talking about reason here)
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain (prefferably),
But am betrothed (promised) unto your enemy (the devil),
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
except you enthrall me (to hold spellbound), never shall be free,
nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Added by: AM
In many of The Holy Sonnets, Donne is trying to rekindle a dwindling faith by means of analysis and intellect. He is, paradoxically, using argument to establish faith, and seems to be trying to convince himself as much as God. This is especially true of Holy Sonnet XIV.

"Batter my heart, three-personed God; for, you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new."

The aggressiveness of this reveals a man not afraid to question God. However, the poem is not merely a series of violent images; his argument is tautly constructed. "knock, breathe, shine, and seek" in the second line have exact, intensified equivalents in the fourth. This demonstrates the precision of Donne's argument.

There is a much more urgent need to prove in this poem than in 'The Flea'. This is because the persuasive force of the Holy Sonnets derives FROM their intensely personal quality. Donne needs to prove to himself and God that he can be saved FROM damnation.

The emotional explosiveness of the Holy Sonnets is countered by their structural formality. They have the usual fourteen lines of the Elizabethan sonnet, each of five feet; and they observe the usual division INTO octet and sestet. Their rhyme scheme is less familiar. Instead of rhyming in quatrains, abab, cdcd, Donne completes the octet with only two rhymes, which fall irregularly: abba, abba. This helps to unify the octet, but calls for a stricter discipline in shaping expression; and this demand upon the poet's craftsmanship acts as a brake on the vehement feeling which impels his poem.

The sense of violence is greatest in the first four lines; a fact partly explained by the remarkable number of verbs which they include. The next four lines involve a change of tone, as Donne drops FROM the imperative to the apologetic and explains to God how powerless he is to resist sin unaided:

"I, like a usurped town to another due,

Labour to admit you, but O to no end:

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captived, and proves weak or untrue. "

The suggestion of an armed conflict in Donne's simile might seem inappropriate to a man's relationship with God, but in the context of violent physical effort established in the opening lines, ideas of siege and warfare follow as though naturally. In the closing four lines Donne brings the images of physical violence and passionate love together:

"Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I

Except you enthral me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."

This image of rape at first seems grotesquely perverse in conveying Donne's relationship with God, but it is his predilection for the complex, perverse and paradoxical that protects his poetry FROM mere fawning pietism. We witness a man agitated and distressed, troubled in a very real way. By using images, seemingly inappropriate at first, he conveys perfectly his mental state to both himself and us. Indeed the poem derives its vigour FROM emotional distress expressed with a wildly persistent logic. He can never be free until he is God's prisoner. There is a barrier to his faith so strong that only God can break it. He takes the readers along, making us accept this as a reasonable demand.

In reply to the other two.
Added by: A.
i would just like to say that the title of plagarist.com works very well for the person who has submitted the second comment as the comments come directly FROM 'A Preface to Donne' by James Winny. As to the mr. allans comments, they should be disregarded as he shows little to no knowledge of the poem and its context. the analysis reads the poem with no knowledge of what Donne is saying, or the biblical references that are given. for example, in the first the first four lines refer to a comment in the bible that God only knocks at the door, he never forces his way in. ie Donne wants God to be more violent with him, and rather than 'knock breathe, and shine' he wants him to 'break, blow, burn and make me new', the conceit here is not of pottery making, but of a blacksmiths forge.
Added by: lee
I agree there is so much in this little poem. it is packed with biblical referances!
Donne's 'Batter My Heart'
Added by: Emma
I think that there are some valid comments. However, the intense violence and aggression is supported also by the repetitive use of the monosyllabic and plosives throughout. The violent paradoxes of a besieged city and virgin bride are exteme and highlight the desperation of the narrative voice to be confined from the outside influences that make him Sin. I think it is important to analyse the context of Donne's life to fully appreciate and gather an interpretation.
Sonnet XIV
Added by: C.C.
to the person who posted the third comment: you're criticizing the way the first person said absolutely nothing and knew absolutely nothing about sonnet xiv, and that he didnt actaully help at all. wel lemme tel u sumthing: some ppl like to keep it simple, and reading the first comment was actually quite helpful, though of course he could have improved. teh second person didnt really help that much though, and now that i know that that was plagiarism i definitely wouldnt put that comment in first place. and the third comment , ie the one im criticizing, was by far the worst cuz it didnt help at all! it just made me worried that im missing out a bunch of stuff. and if there were another way of posting comments i would do so, but as there isnt im afraid im gonna have to use up space that would otherwise be used for useful analysis... but there u go. so now i bet some ppl r gonna go saying how pointless this post is... but thats their problem
Added by: LEDZI
I think the theme of the sonnet is the desperation of a sinner towards God.the poet shows how helpless and weak the individual is.
the great nuptial mystery
Added by: Ella
The paradox of the last verse has its fundament in the Bible. This great nuptial mystery is revealed and confirmed in that marvelous passage of Ephesians in which St.Paul links the “one flesh” union of Genesis with the union of Christ and the Church. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This is the great mystery and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” (4, Eph 5:31 – 32) Christ has left his Father in Heaven and the home of his Mother is earth to give up his body to his BRIDE, so that we might become one body with him. He is the BRIDEGROOM. This is not a sexual encounter but the consummation of a mystical marriage. this. (3) Reading this poem without the lens of this “great mystery” can lead to terrible mistakes of interpretation. Can somebody describe the taste of a particular food without has ever taste it? Probably not.
On the subject of pottery making vs. being a black
Added by: Emu
Actually, I think you could interpret those four verbs as a refernece to being a blacksmith and forging metal, being a potter and making pottery, OR to someone making glass. All three are applicable to the verbs stated and as long as you defend why they are applicable, I see no problem with appyling any of them to the poem. All of them would provide a new interpretation, which is why I think Donne left the meaning of those verbs in correlation to one another ambiguous. If you hadn't noticed, Donne, like Shakespeare, often employs equivocation within his poetry to enhance and enrich a deeper meaning. God is often compared to a maker of pottery, so I think that take could very well be explored within the context of this poem. While I-like A- believe that mike allen does misinterpret parts of the poem, I do not believe that asserting presumptuously that Donne ONLY inteded for people to think of blacksmiths when reading those verbs reflects any innate and omnipotent skill for analyzing poetry. Rarely are there ever absolutes in poetry, that's what makes it intriguing.
Irony in the Poem
Added by: Andrea
This poem is also full of paradoxes. Donne says that unless God take Him captive, he will never be free...that unless God ravish him, he will never be pure. He speaks of the complexities of God and the things about God that can only be believed through faith. This is why "Reason...proves weak or untrue." because God cannot be comprehended in our finite minds nor through human logic.

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