Thursday, March 21, 2013

Favorite Poetry: Batter My Heart

While doing English 12 work today I learned about John Donne, about whom I had previously known very little.  I was struck with the selections of his poetry in my textbook, though, and I think I shall look for more.
This particular poem I especially liked for its intensity, almost violence.  I also love the marriage/love imagery - as a "wannabe nun," I'm always a sucker for lovers' terminology applied to the spiritual!

I could almost use this poem as a prayer.  Is that "allowed," do you think?

via Google Images

Batter My Heart
By John Donne
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.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, 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 betrothed unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again, 
Take me to you, imprision me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Isn't it striking?  *sighs in poetical bliss*
Incidentally, do any of you know anything about Donne?  Have any favorites you could recommend to me? Do tell!


  1. I do know that Donne wrote some graphically unchaste poetry in, I think, an earlier period, just a warning.

    I love that poem myself--I think it's a lovely prayer. There's many infinitely worse 'poems' that I've heard sung at Mass... not that having bad music at Mass is good, of course.

    Donne sadly was a Catholic recusant who left the Church and became an Anglican clergyman, I think. I'm not very familiar with his work.


    1. Oh, did he? How upsetting. Thank you so much for warning me.

      Haha, I know....some of those modern songs just...ugh. Really, come to think of it, the poem is even better than some of the more traditional hymns from the 1800's.

      Oh, was he a Catholic once? I knew he was an Anglican, and one of the so-called "metaphysical poets." That's sad that he left the faith, especially seeing what a grasp he had on such things as abandonment to the Divine Will.

  2. Isn't it just??? I love that poem so very much...

    Break, blow, burn and make me new;

    But am betrothed.unto thy enemy...

    Beautiful. I know little about Donne, except that I am under an impression that he was Protestant. But yet in possession of some truth, obviously, though not the fulness of it. The only other poem I know of his is Death, Be Not Proud, which was assigned in memorization for school but beloved all the same. You should look it up, it's prime stuff.

  3. Yes, I love those poems. That one brings to mind the statue of Teresa of Avila in ecstasy, when she's being pierced by the angel. Another of his poems I would recommend (if you haven't seen it yet) is the holy sonnet number 10:

    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

    I analyzed and wrote about this one and number 14 (batter my heart) for an AP literature class last year. They are very cool, and very deep.


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