HowJohn Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 14” reflects traditionalJudeo-Christian thought and subverts traditional Judeo-Christianthought.
HolySonnet 14 “Batter my heart” by John Donne is very critical in itsexamination of the soul of a Christian who is attached to worldlylifestyle. In the sonnet, the poet attempts to request God tointervene and restore the poet’s lost soul. God should take overhis life and make him a new being again. The poet shows the gravityof the situation he finds himself in by requesting God to break allthe chains that stops him from being right with God in order to befreed. He even demands that God should take him by force.Righteousness and being right with God forms the foundation of theJudeo-Christian world view as it is seen as a necessary forcoexistence. Christians believe that God rewards righteous humanbeings with a better life in the afterlife while those who go astrays go to hell (Nathan and Topolski 67). As much asJudea-Christian perspectives are advanced by the “Holy Sonnet 14”,this essay will examine if the poem subverts some thoughts.
Tobegin, Christians believe that sin is part and parcel of the humannature and should be forgiven. Donne writes that people who sin canalways have recourse if they changed their ways. The poet desiresthat God should “Batter my heart” (line 1). This metaphor showshow desperate the persona is to have a change of heart and soul to beworthy of the kingdom of God. It is in direct opposition withbiblical reference to God knocking the door and individuals lettinghim in. This humble way cannot work for the poet who seems to beburdened by sins. To him, mending is not adequate to experience God’sforgiveness. The persona says “ThatI may rise and stand, o`erthrow me, and bend/ Your force to break,blow, burn, and make me new”(lines 3-4). These lines show that he is desperate to change butsomething stops him and only the use of force will work. Thepersona’s heart is so damaged to be repairable and can only berecreated by God into what it is supposed to be.
Additionally,the persona is frustrated that his soul and mind are captives ofunknown forces including worldly desires. Line 5 exemplifies thisdesperation through a request to be an “upsurp’d town” and itis unable to admit God fully. Here the persona’s soul is comparedto a town that should be overthrown. He also accounts for the statehe finds himself saying that God’s viceroy in his soul is heldcaptive by so powerful forces that he is only a captive who is unableto do anything. The poet agrees with the Judeo-Christian perspectiveof the role of sin in the life of a Christians. Christians teach thathuman beings are short of God’s grace and by extension they shouldseek to go back to God each time by repenting their sins. In factthey are invited to make the initiative to seek forgiveness of sinand lead upright lives. To the persona, this is inadequate and Godshould really blow him up or burn him if that is what it takes tomake him a new creature.
Additionally,Christians should love God unconditionally at personal level becauseGod is jealous of other gods (Exodus 34: 14). This means that Goddisapproves anything short of allegiance to him. However, humanbeings continually try being closer to God and they must give up alot to achieve this. Some like the persona in the poem have failedhere. The persona admits that he loves God unconditionally but he isbetroth’d unto God’s enemy (line 9). This means that his hearthas led him into sinful ways that he can only describe himself as abetrothal of Satan. For this, the persona requests God to divorce himfrom the sinful ways and break the “knot” (line 11). He is readyto be God’s slave as he says “Takeme to you, imprison me,…” (line 12). He adds that if taken in, hewould only be free should he be enthralled by God (line 13). Thepoet successfully shows that man shall triumph at the end and thishints to the manner in which Jesus overcame temptation to embody whatChristians should admire to be like. Donne shows that humans have thedesire to transform despite the many temptations.
Toa great length, Donne reflects the traditional Judeo-Christian views.Christians believe that being righteous will put them closer to Godand they aspire to achieve just that. The poem shows the conflictmost Christians go through as they battle to choose between theworldly possessions and God’s Kingdom.
Greenblatt,Stephen, gen. ed. TheNorton Anthology of English Literature.9th ed. Vol. A.New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
Nathan,Emmanuel, and Anya Topolski. IsThere a Judeo-Christian Tradition?: A European Perspective. 2016.print.