Themes in Batter my heart

Sinful, unworthy, unfaithful

The overriding theme of Batter my heart is Personal Sinfulness and Unworthiness, to which, almost as a corollary, the theme of Unfaithfulness is attached. The imagery of the sestet is quite explicitly that of marital unfaithfulness: ‘am betrothed unto our enemie'; ‘Divorce me'; ‘ravish mee'. It might seem shocking to use such explicit human terminology for spiritual unfaithfulness, but, then, the Metaphysical poets do set out to shock. For Donne, we feel, this is not some rhetorical trick, but an expression of his own sense of being a divided personality.

A divided personality

Various critics have made suggestions about why Donne feels so divided:

  • His leaving of the Roman Catholic church may still have haunted him with feelings of betrayal and of division.

  • It may be more temperamental. Some people are supersensitive to their own shortcomings and failures.

Whatever the reason, it makes for dramatic poetry.

Investigating Batter my heart
  • Pick out words and phrases in Batter my heart that express Donne's sense of his own sinfulness
    • Is this sense of sinfulness a general malaise?
      • Or do there seem to be specific sins behind it?
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