Saturday, June 07, 2008

Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-person'd 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.
I, like an usurp'd 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.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


John Donne, Holy Sonnets, No XIV

4 comments:

poetreader said...

Thank you, Albion, for posting this wonderful piece. Donne, as always, cuts right to the heart of the matter.

We are a fallen race, incapable of committing ourselves to God. In all our arguing and all our striving for theological correctness, we never manage to get free of our self-serving self-centeredness, but manage to pervert even the truth to serve our sinfulness.

If we love Him, the best we are able to do is to beg Him to take us by force, to wrest us away from the evil we serve, and to change us as we cannot change ourselves.

ed

Millo Shaw said...

Mr. Land,

I endorse everything Poetreader has said. The main theme of the sonnet, the desperation of our plight as sinners separated from God, and the necessity of radical measures to overcome our sin, our death, and restore us to God, is echoed, with emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit (and an allusion to the tragic death of the hero Heracles),in Part IV of T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” in Four Quartets:

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

William Hyland said...

Thank you for posting this, one of my favorites from Donne. Always timely. Let's see more of these gems from the Caroline divines posted here!

James said...

One of my favourite poems, and a powerful one at that!

Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


The tone and intensity reminds me of one of my very favourite novels, Wuthering Heights.