Language and tone in Good Friday, 1613


The language he uses in Good Friday, 1613, as so often with Donne, is predetermined by the imagery and theme. So the language is the language of devotion and the language of confession. There is another traditional play on words that Donne uses effectively here: that of Son (as in Jesus Christ, the Son of God) and Sun. The Bible states that ‘the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings' Malachi 4:2 and in Christian symbolism, this is taken to refer to Christ.

Thus we have

  • ‘a Sunne, by rising set' referring to the raising up of Christ on the cross, which is his death or ‘setting' . Donne also describes the sun ‘winking' and the earth (called ‘God's footstool' in the Psalms) cracking. This refers to the Gospel accounts of an earthquake occurring and darkness falling ‘over the whole land' while Christ hung on the cross. Donne seems to be saying that if Christ had not endured this darkness while paying for human sin that all human beings would have remained forever in the darkness of sin.
  • This begets ‘endless day' in the symbolism of day as the light of righteousness, the night being the darkness of sin and evil. Also in the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation ‘There will be no more night' Revelation 22:5 NIV. The Sun/Son needing to set (die) for light to be always present is the paradox which Donne achieves.

Investigating Good Friday, 1613
  • Look at the language and tone of Good Friday, 1613
    • Explain ‘that endlesse height which is/Zenith to us, and our Antipodes'
  • What would you say was the tone of the poem?
    • Does it allow for a dramatic reading?
    • Or does it need to be quietly meditative?
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