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
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes 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
Since She Whom I Lov'd
His wife's early death
This sonnet stands apart from most of the Holy Sonnets as it was discovered in a separate manuscript along with two other sonnets. The sonnet is known as Westmorland II after the name given to the manuscript. It is probably the most autobiographical of the sonnets, detailing the effect of his wife's early death, especially in driving him closer to God.
Nevertheless he does not feel he is nearly close enough. The octave describes this spiritual journey, ending with the lines ‘A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yett.' A dropsy is a medical condition, whereby water is retained by the body, so that the sufferer is constantly thirsty. Donne uses the image of spiritual thirst, not as an illness, but as a spiritual condition, akin to the Psalmist's ‘As pants the hart' in Psalms 42:1, where thirst is a metaphor for spiritual desire.
God as a jealous lover
The sestet, however, reverses this direction dramatically. Rather than Donne seeking God, it is God who is the holy lover, actively wooing and seeking the poet. God is offering him an exchange: ‘Dost wooe my soul for hers; offring all thine'. This is a bold, almost outrageous image. Even worse, God is seen as a jealous lover, doubting the poet's fidelity, and mistrusting him in the face of his rivals. The first of these rivals are still ‘things divine', but which still might divert Donne's love away from God.
More on Love language: see ‘Batter my heart' also by John Donne
The second group of rivals is altogether more dangerous: ‘the World, Fleshe, yea Devill.' This trio were seen as the great enemies of the soul in the Middle Ages and are mentioned in The the Church of England service of baptism (see Liturgy Baptism:The baptism. They had already been used by Donne in Satyre III: ‘On Religion'. The sonnet ends unresolved, despite a final couplet. In a sense, there can be no final resolution till death.
From tenderness to contempt
The sonnet is a strange one, moving from great tenderness at the beginning to almost dramatic contempt at the end. We feel perhaps Donne has neither resolved his grief over his loss, nor yet his commitment to God. Nor perhaps is he used to no longer being the assertive male lover, but the more passive female one, with God taking on the dominant role.
- Read through Donne's Since she whom I lov'd
- Does the sestet back up the claim of the octave: ‘Wholly on heavenly things my mind is sett'?
- Do you find the use of human love language somewhat surprising in a sonnet of religious devotion?
- How is it that the two spheres of experience can borrow images from one another?
- Explain the image ‘so streames do shew their head'
Resources: This has been set to music by Benjamin Britten: The Holy Sonnets of John Donne.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
Signing with the CrossThe president or another minister makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each candidate, sayingChrist claims you for his own.Receive the sign of his cross.The president may invite parents, godparents and sponsors to sign the candidates with the cross.When all the candidates have been signed, the president saysDo not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.All Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christagainst sin, the world and the devil,and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness,restore in you the image of his glory,and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ.All Amen.[Further prayers, then]The president or another minister dips each candidate in water,or pours water on them, sayingN, I baptize youin the name of the Father,and of the Son,and of the Holy Spirit.All Amen.The president saysMay God, who has received you by baptism into his Church,pour upon you the riches of his grace,that within the company of Christ's pilgrim peopleyou may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.All Amen.
Then shall the Priest say,O MERCIFUL God, grant that the old Adam in this Child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him. Amen.Grant that all carnal affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. Amen.Grant that he may have power and strength, to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh. Amen.Grant that whosoever is here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen.ALMIGHTY everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins, did shed out of his most precious side both water and blood; and gave commandment to his disciples, that they should go teach all nations, and baptize them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy Congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Then the Priest shall take the Child into his hands, and shall say to the Godfathers and Godmothers, Name this Child. And then naming it after them (if they shall certify him that the Child may well endure it) he shall dip it in the Water discreetly and warily, saying,N. I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.But if they certify that the Child is weak, it shall suffice to pour Water upon it, saying the foresaid words,N. I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.Then shall the Priest say,WE receive this Child into the Congregation of Christ's flock, *and do sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end. Amen.*Here the Priest shall make a Cross upon the Child's forehead.Then shall the Priest say,SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.
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