Language and tone in Batter my heart

Dramatic language

The language used by Donne in Batter my heart is highly dramatic.

  • The monosyllabic verbs especially hit us, as they are run off as a list in quick succession:
    • ‘knocke, breathe, shine' contrasting with
    • ‘breake, blowe, burn' The alliteration is carried on from the opening ‘Batter'
  • The paradoxes are similarly paired:
    • ‘rise and stand' with ‘o'erthrow';
    • ‘imprison...enthrall' with ‘free'
    • The verbs predominate, just as monosyllables do.

Dramatic voice

The initial outburst reminds us of Donne's dramatic voice, seen in so many other openings:

  • ‘Busie old foole' (The Sunne Rising)
  • ‘For Godsake hold your tongue' (The Canonisation)

  • ‘Blasted with sighs' (Twicknam Garden)

  • ‘Spit in my face' (another of the Holy Sonnets).

However there is considerable variation of tone: it is not all strident. 1.6 has more a tone of longing; 1.9 is much softer, a declaration of love. The drama is never rant. There is a curious tension between importunity and reverence.

Investigating Batter my heart
  • Examine the proportion of statements to commands in Batter my heart
    • Is there a pattern?
    • Is ‘commands' exactly the right word?
      • Can you think of better terms to use for the voice he uses to God?
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