Metaphysical poets, selected poems Contents
- Donne, John
- John Donne's early life
- John Donne - from Catholic to Protestant
- John Donne's marriage and its aftermath
- John Donne - The Reverend Dean
- Herbert, George
- Crashaw, Richard
- Vaughan, Henry
- Marvell, Andrew
- King, Henry
- Lovelace, Richard
- Cowley, Abraham
- Philips, Katherine
- Cleveland, John
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context: ideas and innovations
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Synopsis of Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Commentary on Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present
- Affliction I
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Love II
- Prayer I
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh
- Ascension - Hymn
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
A Hymn to God the Father
A Hymn to God the Father
Like Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse, this was written fairly late in Donne's life. There is an alternative version of it entitled To Christ. It was reputedly set to music and sung to a solemn tune.
Though dealing with a serious topic, one very important to Donne, the poem is also an extended play on words on the poet's name. So ‘done'/Donne must be seen as being pronounced in the same way. The poet is asking God's forgiveness for different types of sins, but feeling as if he will never finish confessing them all. This gives him a fear that when he dies, he will not have received God's forgiveness and will perish ‘on the shore', the point between life and death.
The first sin mentioned is what is known as original sin.
More on original sin: Adam and Eve are portrayed in the Bible as the first human beings. They are shown disobeying God and, as a result, are expelled from the Garden of Eden at the Fall. This first or ‘original' sin was believed to have tainted their descendants, predisposing all human beings to disobey God's commandments and making it difficult for them to have a close relationship to him.
This original sin is referred to by Donne as ‘it were done before', and its continuance in himself by ‘I do run still'. He deplores it but cannot help it.The last two lines of the stanza act as a refrain. When God has done (forgiving), there will be more sins in the future to forgive, so God has not in fact done/finished (forgiving). Nor has he Donne (in the sense of possessing Donne's full allegiance), because Donne is still prone to disobey God as a result of his fallen nature and its bias to sin.
In stanza two, Donne appears to be referring to particular sins, by which he also caused other people to sin. These may be spiritual or moral. It may be that he is having doubts about his abandonment of Catholicism or he may be thinking of some of his secular love poems and their frank sexuality.
A sin of fear
The final stanza deals with a particular sin, that of fear. Donne is so afraid of sin that he is now in danger of committing the very sin of fear, through doubting God's promises of mercy and grace. Interestingly, he does not use Christian imagery to express this struggle, but imagery drawn from pagan Greek belief in the Fates, the three blind goddesses supposed to determine the course of human life. One Fate spun, one wove, and one cut the thread – which was the moment of death.
Resolution comes through the narrator praying that God should swear by himself to allow his son Jesus to shine like the sun (another play on words as Jesus was called the ‘Son' of God) in mercy and righteousness Malachi 4:2. If God does this, then he will have Donne and have done! As at the end of some of the Holy Sonnets (This is my Playes Last Scene and At the Round Earths Imagin'd Corners), Donne seems to be expecting a special response from God, although Christianity in fact teaches that God's mercy is extended to everyone who repents.
- Does Donne's sense of sin seem to have grown with age?
- Look at some of his early poems
- Compare them with A Hymn to God the Father
- Is this an over-dramatic re-enactment of guilt feelings or a quiet search for inner peace?
- Where does the real power of the poem come from?
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
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