Show me Deare Christ

Finding the true church

This sonnet stands apart from most of the other Holy Sonnets, having been discovered in a separate manuscript, the Westmorland, together with ‘Since She Whom I Lov'd' and one other. It should be read in conjunction with Satyre III: ‘On Religion', both are about finding the true church amidst the various conflicting claims of early seventeenth century Christianity in Britain.

Sexual imagery

Lamb of GodAlthough the Satire uses sexual imagery, in this sonnet it becomes more and more focused, till the poet finishes with the final conceit that the true church will be she who is most promiscuous, open to the gaze and love of most men! He can carry this off since the church is described in the Bible itself as ‘the Bride of Christ' and ‘the wife of the Lamb' Revelation 21:9-10; Revelation 22:17, with Christ (the Lamb of God, as in John 1:29) as her bridegroom.

The rivals

In the octave, he briefly discusses the rivals for the nomination of ‘true' Church. They are basically the Roman Catholics, who go ‘richly painted/on the other shore'; and the Protestants, who are the opposite: ‘Laments and mourns in Germany and here'. He refers particularly to the vestments of the priests or ministers of the two churches, but also, impressionistically, to the style of their liturgies, and their spirituality. The ‘seven' hills refer to Rome; the one hill may be Jerusalem, the site of the original church in New Testament times; the ‘no hill' perhaps to the Protestants, who have no central headquarters.

Truth seekers

In the sestet he sees seekers of truth like ‘adventuring knights' who have to find their lady, then make love to her, as in some courtly love quest. He asks God to make it easy by betraying his true bride to them: that is to say, asking God to make his wife unfaithful – one of the paradoxes Donne delights in. ‘Thy mild Dove' is a reference to the Holy Spirit (based on Matthew 3:16), who, it has been promised, will lead believers into all truth John 16:13.

Investigating Show me Deare Christ
  • In Show me Deare Christ
    • Explain the line ‘Sleepes she a thousand, then peepes up a year?'
  • What does this poem suggest is Donne's attitude to the Church of England, of which he was a member and later a priest?
    • Many people today have given up the attempt not only to find religious truth, but any sort of truth. What would Donne say to them?
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