28 July 2008

Mellifluous Mondays: John Donne

Here we have a sonnet from the Elizabethean poet John Donne. Known at first for writing rather raunchy love poetry, Donne was converted in later life and turned his talents to another use. (Not that love poems are bad in themselves, of course. But his libertine lifestyle was not so great...) He wrote a series called the "Holy Sonnets," and this one is one of the most famous. It's a beautiful plea for God's Spirit to soften the poet's heart by any means possible, even trial and pain.

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,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd 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, c. 1610

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