Divine Meditation 14
John Donne is a leading English poet of the metaphysical school. He was born between January 24th and June 19th in the year 1572. He is considered as the one of the greatest love poet in English. Most of his earlier poems were love poems. Later on he wrote religious verse and treatises for his sermons. These verses and treatises were also ranked among the best of the 17th century. He went through a lot of physical and financial sufferings. Later he was appointed as the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. He died on March 31, 1631.
In his typical style, Donne begins his sonnet with strong words that jerks the reader and in this poem it is ‘Batter my heart”. He wants the Lord to attack his heart; here he wants three to do it. The three refers to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. He says God generally gently knocks and shines and tries to mend the ways. He wants stronger action than knocking and mending. Some scholars associate Father as the power to knock, the son as the light and the Holy Spirit as the breath. Now the words ‘knock, shine and mend’ is associated to the three gods by some scholars. The attack mode continues in the third and fourth line. He wants the Lord to bend him with force, break, blow and burn him. He is praying for this violent attack from god to become a new person and stand tall.
In the next lines he compares himself to town captured by someone, who he does not mention. He is trying to say that he lives a life which is not under his control. He calls ‘Reason’ the viceroy and God and ideally should be defending him. But reason himself is imprisoned, weak and untrue. When all the messengers have failed, he tells God that he loves him and would love to be loved by God but unfortunately he is caught in God’s enemies’ hands. The word used is ‘betrothed’ meaning wedded to God’s enemies which can be satan or the forces that compel him to move away from God. Next he asks God to help him divorce from this enemy and break the knot. Having done that, he would love to be imprisoned in the jail of God. He wants God to excite of enthral him and ravish him. God needs to do so much more to pull him away from the ways of the world.
The poem is Petrarchan Sonnet with a rhyme scheme ABBA, ABBA, CDCD, EE. There is alliteration in the line “Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new”. The metaphor used to describe him is that of a shattered town. Reason is personified and calls reason as the ‘viceroy’ of the poet but is an incapable viceroy. The words such as ‘batter, break, burn, blow, imprison’ creates violent images of God as he is seen mostly as a destructor.
Divine Meditation 14 is a part of a large series of sonnets. Sonnets, before Donne, were written to express love for a woman. Here Donne has used the same genre to express his love, of course, to God. This just goes to say about the poet John Donne who did not fear to tread the less trodden path. The last two lines can confuse the readers as the words ‘enthral’ and ‘ravish’ are used to indicate the physical attraction or sex. He has boldly used these words to address God. Donne realises that God has to be ravishing to pull him away from the attractionsS of the motely world.